Live updates: Biden, Zelenskyy discuss aid and security
By The Associated Press
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden has called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss ongoing efforts to impose economic costs on Russia and to speed U.S. military, humanitarian and economic assistance to Ukraine.
The White House said the pair also discussed talks between Russia and Ukraine during the more than 30-minute call early Sunday in Ukraine, but offered no additional details.
Zelenskyy said on Twitter the two presidents discussed security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk for giving Ukraine access to his company’s satellite-internet system, called Starlink.
“I’m grateful to him for supporting Ukraine with words and deeds” Zelenskyy said in a tweet. “Next week we will receive another batch of Starlink systems for destroyed cities.” He joked that they discussed possible space projects, which he would talk about “after the war.”
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Saturday showed off a shipment of the Starlink systems that had arrived in the capital city. He said Starlink would help secure the work of critical infrastructure and the defense of the city.
Several large Ukrainian cities remained without internet or phone connection after being shelled by Russian troops.
CHERNIHIV, Ukraine — Russia has dropped powerful bombs on residential areas of the city of Chernihiv, a regional official said Saturday.
Vyacheslav Chaus posted a photo of what he said was an undetonated FAB-500, a Soviet-designed 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) air-dropped bomb.
“Usually this weapon is used against military-industrial facilities and fortified structures,” said Chaus, head of the same-named region of Chernihiv. “But in Chernihiv, against residential areas.”
The city of Chernihiv, located north of Kyiv and with a population of 290,000, has come under heavy fire from Russian forces. Officials said 17 people in the region were killed in the shelling.
A video released Saturday by the Ukrainian government showed people cheering as they watched a Russian military plane fall from the sky and crash.
NEW YORK — Mastercard and Visa are suspending their operations in Russia, the companies said Saturday,
Mastercard said cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by its network and any card issued outside the country will not work at Russian stores or ATMs in the latest blow to the country’s financial system after its invasion of Ukraine.
Mastercard said it made its decision after discussions with customers, partners and governments.
Visa said it’s working with clients and partners in Russia to cease all Visa transactions over the coming days.
The suspensions are a follow-up to more limited moves earlier in the week to block financial institutions from the networks that serve as arteries for the payments system. Russian people have already been hit hard by heavy sanctions and financial penalties imposed by the U.S. government and others.
LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces have intensified shelling in the port city of Mariupol, including with the use of airplanes, the mayor said Saturday night.
“The city is in a very, very difficult state of siege,” Vadym Boychenko told Ukrainian TV. “Relentless shelling of residential blocks is ongoing, airplanes have been dropping bombs on residential areas.”
Boychenko said that thousands of children, women and the elderly came under fire as they arrived in the morning for a possible evacuation through a safe passage corridor. Russia promised to stop the shelling of Mariupol, a port city of 430,000, and Volnovakha, a city in the east, but violated the cease-fire.
Russia has made significant advances in the south, clearly seeking to cut off Ukraine’s access to the sea. Capturing Mariupol, which has been fending off the attack for six days, could allow Russia to build a land corridor to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday echoed the president’s assertion that Russia has lost more than 10,000 troops.
Kuleba also said in a video message released by the Ukrainian government that the Russians had lost dozens of aircraft and hundreds of armored vehicles.
The claim could not be independently verified. The Russian military doesn’t offer regular updates on their casualties. On Wednesday, military officials revealed a death toll of 498.
“Russians keep bearing devastating losses on the ground, and I cannot understand how mothers, wives and daughters of these Russian soldiers bear this pain, seeing how President Putin sends more and more of their beloved ones to Ukraine,” Kuleba said.
Kuleba added, “Ukraine is bleeding but Ukraine has not fallen and stands (with) both feet on the ground.”
NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the United Nations is committed to scaling up its humanitarian operations to help both those who have stayed in Ukraine and the more than 1 million who have fled.
Guterres relayed the promise to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in a phone call on Saturday, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Dujarric said the two also discussed the conditions for safely evacuating civilians, including foreigners, from combat zones.
Ten days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 1.45 million people have fled the battered country, according to the U.N.-affiliated Organization for Migration in Geneva. The U.N. has predicted that the total number of refugees could swell to 4 million, to become the biggest such crisis this century.
The U.N. Security Council will hold a meeting Monday afternoon on the escalating humanitarian needs that have arisen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
NEW YORK — Hundreds of people rallied in New York City’s Times Square on Saturday to show solidarity with Ukraine.
Many attendees were waving Ukrainian flags or draped the flag around their shoulders at the afternoon demonstration.
Others brought signs decrying Russian President Vladimir Putin or calling for a no-fly zone to be imposed over Ukraine.
About 140,000 people of Ukrainian descent live in New York, making it the largest Ukrainian population in the U.S., according to population data from the federal government.
PHOENIX — An Arizona-based ammunition company is offering to donate 1 million bullets to Ukraine’s military amid Russia’s invasion of its European neighbor.
CEO Fred Wagenhals of AMMO Inc. on Friday said it was his response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s appeal for international assistance.
There was no immediate indication whether the U.S. government will approve the proposed export of the ammunition, which has a retail of about $700,000, Phoenix television station KSAZ-TV reported.
The company is based in Scottsdale, a Phoenix suburb.
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Doctors relied on light filtering in through windows and emitted from cellphones to tend to wounded Ukrainian soldiers Saturday at a hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, where a promised cease-fire collapsed.
Dr. Evgeniy said the hospital had no power or heat. Patients were lined up in beds along the corridors, and some people were curled up on the floor to protect themselves.
“We have some issues with supplies, not enough analgesics,” Dubrov said. “We’ve worked more than a week without a break.”
A soldier, Svyatoslav Borodin, said a blast blurred his vision, and he thought he might have lost his legs. Another soldier applied a tourniquet.
“Scary,” he said. “Very scary.”
In the city of Irpin, near Kyiv, a sea of people on foot and in wheelbarrows trudged over the remains of a destroyed bridge to cross a river and evacuate.
Assisted by Ukrainian soldiers, they lugged pets, infants, purses and flimsy bags stuffed with minimal possessions. Some of the weak and elderly were carried along the path in blankets and carts.
SIRET, Romania — Romanian President Klaus Iohannis visited a refugee camp in Siret on Saturday and declared that no Ukrainian would be denied entry to his country.
He pledged food, clothing, transportation and help with personal documents.
“It is a situation that no Ukrainian and no Romanian wanted, but we are very determined to deal with it here in Romania, as it should be,” Iohannis said.
KYIV, Ukraine — The next round of talks between Ukraine and Russia will be held on Monday, Ukrainian official Davyd Arakhamia said Saturday.
Arakhamia is head of the parliamentary faction of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party and a member of Ukraine’s delegation at the talks.
Monday’s will be the third round of talks as the two sides try to negotiate a cease-fire and safe passage corridors for civilians.
LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces have now seized two Ukrainian nuclear power plants and are advancing toward a third, Ukraine’s president said during a call with U.S. senators Saturday.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the third plant currently under threat is the Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant, located 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Mykolaiv, one of several cities the Russians were trying to keep encircled Saturday.
One of the plants under the Russians’ control is the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe. The other is Chernobyl, which is not active but is still staffed and maintained. Previous Russian shelling sparked a fire at the Zaporizhzhia plant that was extinguished without a release of radiation.
Technical safety systems are intact and radiation levels are still normal at the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to the country’s nuclear regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Saturday.
Ukraine has four nuclear plants with a total of 15 reactors.
WASHINGTON — Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged U.S. lawmakers to sanction Russia’s oil and gas sector and suspend credit card access, and backed an idea to ban Russian oil imports to the U.S. that’s been gaining support in Congress.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said Zelenskyy emphasized during a private call Saturday with the U.S. lawmakers that the energy sector needs to be sanctioned.
“Anything that could hurt the Russian economy will help the Ukrainian people and may make this war more difficult” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Graham said in a video.
During the call, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia asked Zelenskyy about the idea of banning Russian oil to the U.S., according to two people granted anonymity to discuss the private call.
Zelenskyy indicated he was 100% on board with banning Russian oil to the U.S. and told the senators it would be very helpful, the people said.
Zelensky also asked them to suspend access to Visa and Mastercard credit cards in Russia, according to another person granted anonymity to discuss the call.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Michael Balsamo and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for several hours in Moscow on Saturday.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office confirmed the meeting at the Kremlin, which came just days after Bennett spoke over the phone with both Russian and Ukrainian leaders.
Bennett’s office said he departed early Saturday morning for Moscow, accompanied by Russian-speaking Cabinet minister Zeev Elkin, who was born in Ukraine. Both men are observant Jews and wouldn’t normally travel on the Sabbath.
Israel is one of the few countries that has good working relations with both sides. The country has delivered humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but also maintains ties with Moscow to make sure that Israeli and Russian warplanes do not come into conflict in neighboring Syria.
The meeting ended after about three hours, according to an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said the meeting was coordinated with the U.S., Germany and France and that Bennett “is in ongoing dialogue with Ukraine.”
Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
CAIRO — Egypt says it has transferred to Europe about 4,000 Ukrainian tourists who were stranded in the Middle Eastern nation after Russia invaded their country.
The tourists were brought to countries neighboring Ukraine on free flights operated by state-run airliners, and more flights are scheduled in the coming days, government spokesman Nader Saad said Saturday. He did not elaborate.
Following Russia’s invasion and the closure of Ukrainian airspace, the Egyptian government has allowed Ukrainian tourists to extend their stay for free in hotels and resorts, Saad said.
Ukraine’s embassy in Cairo has said there were about 20,000 Ukrainian tourists in Egypt, a touristic hub for tourists from eastern Europe and Russia.
WASHINGTON — A Russian airliner has received an exception to the U.S. airspace ban in order to return Russian diplomats expelled from the U.S to Russia.
The Ilyushin Il-62 is flying from St. Petersburg to Washington Dulles International Airport outside the U.S. Capitol. A U.S. government official confirmed it had been granted a waiver from the airspace restriction put in place in retaliation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in order to retrieve the Russian diplomats.
The U.S. expelled 12 Russians at its mission to the United Nations accusing them of being intelligence operatives.
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Wilmington, Delaware, contributed to this report.
LONDON — Ukraine’s foreign minister on Saturday criticized Shell for continuing to buy Russian oil, lashing out at the energy giant for continuing to do business with Vladimir Putin’s regime after the company announced it was exiting investments in Russia.
Dmytro Kuleba said he had been told Shell “discreetly” bought the oil on Friday. He appealed to the public to pressure the company and other international firms to halt such purchases in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Shell said it was “shocked by the loss of life in Ukraine” and would end its joint ventures with Gazprom, the massive oil and gas company that is controlled by the Russian government.
Shell on Saturday said it has already stopped “most activities involving Russian oil,” although it continues to buy some products from Russia to supply the needs of its refineries and chemical plants. These purchases are necessary to ensure fuel supplies for customers, Shell said.
WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a “desperate plea” to U.S. senators on Saturday to send more planes to help the country fight the Russian invasion.
Zelenskyy made the request on a call joined by more than 300 people, including senators, some House lawmakers and aides.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement that Zelenskyy made a “desperate plea for Eastern European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine.”
“I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer,” Schumer said.
Schumer told Zelenskyy the U.S. lawmakers are inspired by him and by the strength and courage of the Ukrainian people, according to another person on the call who was granted anonymity to discuss it.
The U.S. Congress also is working on a $10 billion package of military and humanitarian aide, and Schumer told Zelenskyy that lawmakers hope to send it quickly to Ukraine, the person said.
Zelenskyy told senators he needs planes and drones more than other security tools, according to a senior Senate aide granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting.
Associated Press reporter Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has updated an earlier travel advisory and is now recommending that U.S. citizens leave Russia immediately.
The notice offers this guidance: “If you wish to depart Russia, you should make arrangements on your own as soon as possible. If you plan to stay in Russia, understand the U.S. Embassy has severe limitations on its ability to assist U.S. citizens, and conditions, including transportation options, may change suddenly.”
The department already has advised Americans not to travel to Russia. That warning cites “the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine” and “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials,” among other things.
TIRANA, Albania — Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said he spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday to express his country’s support.
Albania has joined the European Union in imposing hard-hitting sanctions against Russia’s top officials and institutions.
The country is also collecting and sending assistance to the Ukrainian refugees.
Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka, meanwhile, vehemently shot down Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertsions that Albanian mercenaries are operating in Ukraine, calling it “a lie that Moscow keeps repeating shamelessly!”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces were holding key cities in the central and southeastern part of the country Saturday, while the Russians were trying to block and keep encircled Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy.
“We’re inflicting losses on the occupants they could not see in their worst nightmare,” Zelenskyy said. He alleged that 10,000 Russian troops were killed in the 10 days of the war, a claim that could not be independently verified. The Russian military doesn’t offer regular updates on their casualties. Only once, on Wednesday, they revealed a death toll of nearly 500.
“This is horrible,” Zelenskyy said. “Guys 18, 20 years old … soldiers who weren’t even explained what they were going to fight for.”
WARSAW, Poland — The head of Ukraine’s Supreme Court has appealed for Russia’s top court to be excluded from a body of Central and Eastern Europe’s chief justices because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s top court president, Vsevolod Kniaziev, said the Supreme Court of Russia should be excluded from the Conference of Chief Justices of Central & Eastern Europe “as it represents a country that brought terror, death and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.”
Kniaziev’s letter of appeal was received Saturday by Malgorzata Manowska, the president of the Supreme Court in Poland, which borders Ukraine.
NEW YORK — Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is nothing that warrants imposing martial law in Russia at this point.
Putin’s comment on Saturday followed days of speculation that the introduction of martial law could be imminent.
Putin said that “martial law is imposed in a country … in the event of external aggression, including in specific areas of hostilities. But we don’t have such a situation, and I hope we won’t.”
ROME — Italian state broadcaster Rai is suspending reporting by its correspondents in Russia.
Rai’s measure, effective Saturday, follows similar moves by some other foreign media. Rai said the measure is necessary to “safeguard the safety of its journalists in the place as well as the maximum freedom of information about the country.”
Russia on Friday passed a law foreseeing prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading what is deemed to be fake information about its armed forces.
NEW YORK — Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow would consider any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine as “participation in the armed conflict.”
Speaking at a meeting with female pilots on Saturday, Putin said Russia would view “any move in this direction” as an intervention that “will pose a threat to our service members.”
“That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict, and it would not matter what members they are,” the Russian president said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pushed NATO to impose a no-fly zone over his country, warning that “all the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you.”
NATO has said a no-fly zone, which would bar all unauthorized aircraft from flying over Ukraine, could provoke widespread war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia.
BERLIN — The U.N. human rights office says it has confirmed the deaths of 351 civilians in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.
The Geneva-based office said that another 707 civilians were injured between Feb. 24 and midnight Friday.
The rights office uses strict methodology and only reports casualties it has confirmed. It said Saturday it believes the real figures are considerably higher, “especially in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days,” as the receipt of information from some places where there was intense fighting was delayed and many reports were still undergoing corroboration.
Ukrainian officials have presented far higher numbers.
NEW YORK — Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship carrier, has announced that it will halt all international flights except to Belarus starting March 8.
The move by Russia’s biggest state-owned airline comes after the country’s aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, recommended that all Russian airlines with foreign-leased planes halt both passenger and cargo flights abroad.
It cited a high risk of foreign-leased planes being impounded as part of Western sanctions that ban leasing of planes to Russia.
Rosaviatsiya’s recommendation doesn’t apply to Russian airlines that use Russian planes or foreign planes that aren’t at risk of being impounded. Aeroflot’s statement Saturday cited “circumstances that hinder operating flights” as a reason for its move.
Another Russian airline, low-cost carrier Pobeda, said Saturday that also would halt all international flights starting March 8.
BERLIN — German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF say they are suspending reporting from their Moscow studios after Russia passed a law foreseeing prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading what is deemed to be fake information about its armed forces.
The measure was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on Friday and already prompted some foreign media including the BBC and Bloomberg to say they were suspending operations within Russia.
ARD and ZDF said in a statement that they are examining the consequences of the new legislation and suspending reporting from the Moscow studios for now.
The passing of the law comes amid a broader crackdown on media outlets and social media in Russia.
LVIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian president’s office says civilian evacuations have halted in an area of the country where Russian defense officials had announced a cease-fire.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said the evacuation effort was stopped because the city of Mariupol remained under fire on Saturday.
“The Russian side is not holding to the ceasefire and has continued firing on Mariupol itself and on its surrounding area,” he said. “Talks with the Russian Federation are ongoing regarding setting up a ceasefire and ensuring a safe humanitarian corridor.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier in a statement it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces for Mariupol, a strategic port in the southeast, and for the eastern city of Volnovakha.
But a city official reported that shelling continued in his area Saturday despite the deal, a sign of the fragility of efforts to stop fighting across the country.
RZESZOW, Poland — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine as the war enters its 10th day. Blinken arrived in Rzeszow on Saturday for talks with top Polish officials and was to visit a frontier post to meet Ukrainian refugees later in the day.
Blinken was meeting Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau a day after attending a NATO foreign minister’s meeting in Brussels at which the alliance pledged to step up support for eastern flank members like Poland to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although NATO has ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over non-member Ukraine, it has significantly boosted both military and humanitarian assistance. Rzeszow is about 80 km (50 miles) from the Ukrainian border and its airport has become a hub for flights carrying such aid.
NEW YORK — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has defended Russia’s adoption of a law setting out prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading what is deemed to be fake information about its armed forces.
The measure was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on Friday and prompted some foreign media including the BBC and Bloomberg to say they were suspending operations within Russia.
Peskov told reporters the measure was justified on the grounds of an “information war which was unleashed against our country.” Asked how Russians could express opinions which don’t match the official government position, Peskov said “within the bounds of the law.”
The passing of the law comes amid a broader crackdown on media outlets and social media in Russia. Facebook and Twitter were both blocked Friday in Russia.
GENEVA — The International Organization for Migration says the number of people who have left Ukraine since fighting began has now reached 1.45 million.
The U.N. migration agency, citing figures from government ministries in countries where they have arrived, said Saturday that 787,300 of them went to Poland. Some 228,700 fled to Moldova, 144,700 to Hungary, 132,600 to Romania and 100,500 to Slovakia.
The IOM said that nationals of 138 countries have crossed Ukraine’s borders into neighboring nations.
ROME — Italian financial police have seized two Russian-owned superyachts moored in a Ligurian port after Italy’s foreign minister announced plans to sequester 140 million euros ($154 million) from Russian billionaires in Italy.
Foreign Minister Luigio Di Maio told Italian state TV Friday evening that “this is the only way to convince” Putin “to reason.’
Financial police in the port of Imperia immediately seized the 65-meter (215-foot) “Lady M,” with an estimated value of 65 million euros, owned by Alexei Mordashov, as well as the “Lena,” valued at 50 million euros and belonging to Gennady Timchenko. Other seizures were reportedly under way.
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