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Live updates: Mayor: Embattled Ukraine capital is encircled


By The Associated Press

The latest on the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

KYIV, Ukraine — As Russian troops draw closer to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv’s mayor is both filled with pride over his citizens’ spirit and anxious about how long they can hold out.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, after a grueling night of Russian attacks on the outskirts of the city, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there were no plans to evacuate civilians if Russian troops managed to take Kyiv.

“We can’t do that, because all ways are blocked,” he said. “Right now we are encircled.”

When Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Thursday, the city of 2.8 million people initially reacted with concern but also a measure of self-possession. However, nerves started fraying when grocery stores began closing and the city’s famously deep subway system turned its stations into bomb shelters.

The mayor confirmed to the VFAB that nine civilians in Kyiv had been killed so far, including one child.

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NEW YORK — Some early signs are emerging of significant economic consequences to Russia following its invasion of Ukraine three days ago. While official quotes for the Russian ruble were unchanged at roughly 84 rubles to the dollar, one online Russian bank, Tinkoff, was giving an unofficial exchange rate of 152 rubles over the weekend.

Videos from Russia showed long lines of Russians trying to withdraw cash from ATMs, while the Russian Central Bank issued a statement calling for calm, in an effort to avoid bank runs. Reports also showed that Visa and Mastercard were no longer being accepted for those with international bank accounts.

“Banks and credit card companies dealing with Russia are going into lock down mode given the fast pace and increasing bite of the sanctions,” said Amanda DeBusk, a partner with Dechert LLP.

Russia may have to temporarily close bank branches or declare a national bank holiday to protect its financial system, analysts said.

“If there’s a full-scale banking panic, that’s a driver of crisis in its own right,” said Adam Tooze, a professor of history at Columbia University and Director of the European Institute. “A rush into dollars by the Russian general population moves things into an entirely new domain of financial warfare.”

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MOSCOW — The Russian military said Sunday that some of its troops were killed and some were wounded in Ukraine — admitting for the first time that it had suffered casualties since the Russian invasion.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday “there are dead and wounded among our comrades,” without offering any numbers, but adding that Russia’s losses were “many times” fewer than those of Ukraine’s forces.

It was the first time Russian military officials mentioned casualties on their side. Ukraine has claimed that its forces killed 3,500 Russian troops. Konashenkov also said that since the start of the attack Thursday, the Russian military have hit 1,067 Ukrainian military facilities, including 27 command posts and communication centers, 38 air defense missile system and 56 radar stations.

Konashenkov’s claims and Ukraine’s allegations that its forces killed thousands of Russian troops can’t be independently verified.

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PARIS — Hundreds of people protested on Sunday in Paris and in the Riviera city of Nice against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Ukrainian flags and those of other eastern European nations hoisted high.

Some Russians opposed to the war were in the Paris crowd.

It was the second day of protests directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin around France, among a string of weekend rallies across Europe. On the famed Promenade des Anglais in Nice, a hub for Ukrainians, hundreds of people chanted slogans against the war Putin is waging and urged NATO nations to protect them from Russian bombs.

Protesters carried Ukrainian, Moldovan, Georgian and Chechen flags and banners denouncing Putin.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Hundreds of people protested Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Belarus on Sunday. The protests came despite the fact that the authoritarian Belarusian government has sided with Moscow.

The anti-war rallies spanned at least 12 Belarusian cities, and human rights advocates reported that more than 170 people have been arrested. In the capital of Minsk, demonstrators marched in different parts of the city carrying Ukrainian flags. A large pile of flowers kept growing at the building of Ukraine’s Embassy.

Pavel Latushko, Belarusian top opposition figure in exile in Poland, condemned Belarus’ role in the Russian attack on Ukraine.

“The illegitimate regime in Belarus, headed by the usurper of power (President Alexander) Lukashenko, has made our country an accomplice in the aggression against the brotherly Ukrainian people,” Latushko said. “We consider aggression against Ukraine an international crime on the part of the Russian and Belarusian regimes.”

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JERUSALEM — Around 2,500 Ukrainian Jews have asked to immigrate to Israel and take citizenship since the onset of Russia’s invasion, a quasi-governmental organization says.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, which handles immigration matters, said that it has received over 5,000 inquiries about immigration to Israel. Around half have requested to immigrate immediately, the agency said.

Ukraine is home to a Jewish community of around 43,000. But approximately 200,000 Ukrainians are eligible for immigration under Israel’s Law of Return, which extends the right to citizenship to anyone with one Jewish grandparent.

Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Ministry said it was making preparations for taking in around 10,000 new immigrants from Ukraine in the coming weeks, including providing housing and financial aid.

A total of around 3,100 Ukrainians immigrated to Israel in 2021, and a comparable number the year prior.

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TORONTO — Canada is joining many European countries in closing its airspace to all Russian aircraft as the West ramps up pressure on Russia for invading Ukraine.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Sunday that Canada will hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked attacks.

Most European countries have either announced they are closing their airspace or said they intend to do so. So far Spain, Greece, Serbia and Turkey are among the few left that haven’t joined in the move against Russia.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top migration official says more than 300,000 Ukrainians fleeing war have entered the 27-nation bloc in recent days and is warning that Europe must be ready for millions to arrive.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson is urging the bloc’s interior ministers meeting on Sunday to trigger a special protection mechanism set up 20 years ago to help deal with influxes of refugees.

“We have to prepare for even bigger numbers, and we have to prepare for the support that we need to give to the Ukrainians fleeing,” she told reporters at the EU meeting in Brussels. “I think we need to prepare for millions.”

The protection system was set up in the wake of the wars in former Yugoslavia and Kosovo, when thousands of people were forced to flee their homes. It has never been used. It provides residence permits for a fixed time, the possibility of jobs, accommodation, social welfare, medical treatment and education for children.

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ATHENS — Authorities say Greece is sending ammunition, assault rifles and missile launchers to Ukraine in response to a request by Ukraine’s government.

The military aid was decided at a meeting Sunday morning between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and senior defense officials.

A C-130 plane with the equipment has arrived in Poland, and a second one will arrive later, a Defense Ministry official said.

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Two more planes carrying humanitarian aid such as blankets and food have also left Athens International Airport for Poland, the spokesman said.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization is warning that oxygen supplies – important for the fight against COVID-19 and other illnesses – are reaching a “very dangerous point” in Ukraine due to transportation difficulties in the wake of Russia’s military invasion, jeopardizing thousands of lives.

“The majority of hospitals could exhaust their oxygen reserves within the next 24 hours. Some have already run out. This puts thousands of lives at risk,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO Europe regional director Dr. Hans Kluge in a joint statement Sunday afternoon in Europe.

They said electricity and power shortages, and the danger of ambulances getting caught in the crossfire, were increasing the risks to patients.

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LONDON — Britain’s foreign secretary has said she would “absolutely” support Britons who choose to go to Ukraine to help fight the Russian invasion.

“Absolutely, if people want to support that struggle I would support them in doing that,” Liz Truss said Sunday when asked by the BBC whether she would back British people who want to answer the Ukrainian president’s call for international volunteers to help defend his country.

“The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy, not just for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe,” she added.

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TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says Japan has decided to join the United States and European nations in cutting key Russian banks from the SWIFT international financial messaging system to step up sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Japan will also freeze assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials, while sending $100 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Kishida told reporters.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a unilateral attempt to change the status quo and the act shakes the foundation of the international order. It’s an outright violation to international law and we strongly denounce the act,” Kishida said.

In a statement welcoming new sanctions from Japan, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US and its allies “will continue working closely together to impose further severe costs and make Putin’s war of choice a strategic failure.”

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MOSCOW — From Moscow to Siberia, Russians have taken to the streets again on Sunday to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Demonstrators marched in city centers, chanting “No to war.”

Protests against the invasion started on Thursday and have continued for four days in a row, despite police swiftly moving to detain hundreds of people each day.

In St. Petersburg, where dozens gathered in the city center, police in riot gear grabbed protesters and dragged some to police vans, even though the demonstration was peaceful.

According to the OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests, by Sunday afternoon police detained at least 356 Russians in 32 cities over anti-war demonstrations.

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KYIV, UKRAINE — The office of Ukraine’s president has confirmed that a delegation will meet with Russian officials as Moscow’s troops draw closer to Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy office said Sunday on the Telegram messaging app that the two sides would meet at an unspecified location on the Belarusian border and did not give a precise time for the meeting.

The meeting news came shortly after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear forces put on high alert in response to what he called “aggressive statements” by leading NATO powers.

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BERLIN — Approximately 100,000 people have turned out in Berlin to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and show solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

Police said large crowds have filled the area originally planned for the demonstration, around the Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin, and that they were allocating additional space to accommodate the protesters.

Sunday’s protest was peaceful, including many families with children. People waved yellow and blue Ukrainian flags to show their support. Some carried placards with slogans such as “Hands off Ukraine” and “Putin, go to therapy and leave Ukraine and the world in peace.”

Beate Schmid, who works as a scientist in Berlin, said she works closely with academics in Ukraine. “Their sons and brothers and husbands are now being drafted to fight against the Russians,” she said. “It’s so sad. Simply unbelievable.”

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MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces put on high alert amid tensions with the West over his invasion of Ukraine.

Putin asserted at a meeting with his top officials on Sunday that leading NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” along with the West imposing hard-hitting financial sanctions against Russia, including the president himself.

The alert means Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch. He told the Russian defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”

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WARSAW, Poland — While countries like Poland and Hungary have welcomed fleeing Ukrainians, some foreign citizens seeking to leave Ukraine have reported difficulties at the Polish border.

An Indian volunteer in Poland said Sunday some Indian citizens seeking to flee Ukraine into Poland are stuck at the border leading into Medyka, Poland, and unable to cross.

The Indian Embassy in Kyiv said Sunday that Indian citizens are being evacuated from Ukraine to Romania and Hungary. But some have arrived at the border with Poland apparently unaware of this and are stuck.

Ruchir Kataria, the volunteer, told The Associated Press that the Indians seeking to cross at Medyka were told in broken English: “Go to Romania.” But they had already made long journeys on foot to the border, and have no way to reach the border with Romania hundreds of kilometers away.

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MOSCOW — The Kremlin says Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has offered to help broker an end to fighting in Ukraine.

The Kremlin said Bennett told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call on Sunday that Israel is ready to play mediator. It didn’t say whether the Russian leader accepted the offer.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has denounced the “diabolical and perverse logic” of launching a war in Ukraine in his strongest public comments yet.

Francis also called Sunday for humanitarian corridors to welcome Ukrainian refugees fleeing the “tragic” invasion of their homeland.

Francis has refrained from calling out Russia by name as he seeks to mend ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, and he again omitted any reference to Moscow on Sunday. But he said: “Those who make war forget humanity,” adding that warfare “relies on the diabolical and perverse logic of weapons, which is the farthest thing from God’s will.”

Francis repeated his call for the faithful to mark Ash Wednesday this week as a day of fasting and prayer to show solidarity with the “suffering people of Ukraine.”

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as language surrounding the conflict that trivializes the Holocaust.

The Russian Embassy to Israel on Sunday reiterated its government’s claim that the invasion aims to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.”

The Jerusalem-based World Holocaust Remembrance Center said in a statement that the invasion will have “dire consequences” and endanger innocent civilians.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Germany is committing 100 billion euros ($112.7 billion) to a special fund for its armed forces, raising its defense spending above 2% of its GDP.

Scholz told a special session of the Bundestag in Berlin on Sunday that it was clear “we need to invest significantly more in the security of our country, in order to protect our freedom and our democracy.”

Germany had come under criticism for not investing adequately in its defense budget and not doing enough to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Saturday evening, the German government announced it would be sending weapons and other supplies directly to Ukraine to help troops against invading Russia forces.

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LONDON — British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says Russian President Vladimir Putin could use “the most unsavory means,” including banned chemical or biological weapons, to defeat Ukraine.

“I urge the Russians not to escalate this conflict but we do need to be prepared for Russia to seek to use even worse weapons,” Truss told Sky News.

She said the International Criminal Court is watching events in Ukraine, and that Putin and the Russian government would face “serious consequences” if it committed war crimes.

Britain has slapped sanctions on Russian banks, companies and oligarchs in response to the invasion, and agreed with the European Union and the U.S. to block some Russian banks from the SWIFT global financial messaging system.

Truss said tough sanctions will have an economic cost on Britain, including in higher energy costs. But she insisted it’s a price worth paying to stop Putin threatening more countries.

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BUDAPEST, HUNGARY — Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has temporarily lost his most senior official position in world sports.

The International Judo Federation on Sunday cited “the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine” for suspending Putin’s honorary president status.

The Russian president is a keen judoka and attended the sport at the 2012 London Olympics.

The judo federation is rare among Olympic sports bodies for using the word “war” to describe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ordered by Putin since Thursday. Others have used phrases such as “escalation of conflict.”

A Kremlin-supporting oligarch and longtime friend of Putin, Arkady Rotenberg, remains on the IJF executive committee as development manager.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s prime minister says the country is sending 100 tons of humanitarian aid to assist civilians caught up in the fighting in Ukraine.

Naftali Bennett told a meeting of his Cabinet Sunday that the aid includes medical equipment and medicine, tents, sleeping bags and blankets.

Bennett did not comment on a report by Israeli public broadcaster Kan which said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked the Israeli leader to mediate talks on ending the crisis with Russia. Bennett’s office confirmed there had been a call but declined to comment on the report. The Ukrainian embassy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bennett has treaded carefully in his public comments on Russia’s invasion. He has voiced support for Ukrainian civilians but has stopped short of condemning Russia. Israeli relies on Russia for security coordination in Syria, where Russia has a military presence and where Israel frequently strikes hostile targets.

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LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says overnight fighting in Kyiv was less intense than the night before, but battles are raging in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense has been posting intelligence updates on social media since Russia invaded.

It said Sunday that “Ukrainian forces have engaged the remnants of Russian irregular forces within the city of Kyiv for the second night in a row, fighting has been at a lower intensity than the previous evening.

“After encountering strong resistance in Chernihiv, Russian forces are bypassing the area in order to prioritise the encirclement and isolation of Kyiv,” it said. “Intensive exchanges of rocket artillery overnight have been followed by heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv.”

The ministry said Russian forces are continuing to advance into Ukraine from multiple axis but they are encountering stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says his country is ready for peace talks with Russia but not in Belarus, which was a staging ground for Moscow’s 3-day-old invasion.

Speaking in a video message Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy named Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as alternative venues. He said other locations are also possible but made clear that Ukraine doesn’t accept Russia’s selection of Belarus.

The Kremlin said Sunday that a Russian delegation had arrived in the Belarusian city of Homel for talks with Ukrainian officials. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the delegation includes military officials and diplomats.

“The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians,” Peskov said.

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MOSCOW — The Kremlin says a Russian delegation has arrived in the Belarusian city of Homel for talks with Ukrainian officials.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the delegation includes military officials and diplomats. “The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians,” Peskov said.

There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials, who previously expressed their own readiness for peace talks with Russia but haven’t mentioned any specific details on their location and timing.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, and its troops are closing in on the capital, Kyiv, and making significant gains along the country’s coast.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say Russian troops have entered Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv and fighting is underway in the streets.

Oleh Sinehubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said Sunday that Ukrainian forces were fighting Russian troops in the city and asked civilians not to leave their homes.

Russian troops approached Kharkiv, which is located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south of the border with Russia, shortly after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine on Thursday. But until Sunday, they remained on its outskirts without trying to enter the city while other forces rolled past, pressing their offensive deeper into Ukraine.

Videos on Ukrainian media and social networks showed Russian vehicles moving across Kharkiv and a light vehicle burning on the street.

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KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian president’s office said Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection warned that the explosion, which it said looked like a mushroom cloud, could cause an “environmental catastrophe” and advised residents to cover their windows with damp cloth or gauze and to drink plenty of fluids.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, said the Russian forces have been unable to take Kharkiv, where a fierce battle is underway.

The city of 1.5 million is located 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border.

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GENEVA — The United Nations says it has confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 people killed, in the fighting in Ukraine that erupted since Russia’s invasion on Thursday — though it believed the “real figures are considerably higher” because many reports of casualties remain to be confirmed.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs relayed the count late Saturday from the U.N. human rights office, which has strict methodologies and verification procedures about the toll from conflict.

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