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Huge explosions rock Kyiv hours after dozens were killed in Russian CLUSTER BOMBS attack


Ukraine’s president accused Russia of war crimes on Monday after Vladimir Putin’s forces launched what were believed to be cluster and vacuum bomb attacks on the fifth day of their invasion. 

In a late night address directed at Russia, Volodymyr Zelensky said there would ‘definitely be an international tribunal’ for what he said was a ‘violation of all conventions’ and added that ‘no one in the world will forgive you for killing peaceful Ukrainian people.’

In a panicked bid to reignite his stalled military onslaught, Vladimir Putin had launched an indiscriminate bombing campaign on the eastern city of Kharkiv just 24 hours after local resistance had sent his troops packing from its streets.

Ukraine war: The latest 

  • Russia promised on Monday that it would hit back against the EU following its support of Ukraine and warned the West against supplying weapons to the country
  • A second round of talks aimed at ending Russia’s attack on Ukraine is set to take place after the first meeting ended without resolution 
  • Ukraine’s MoD says Russia has lost 5,300 soldiers, 29 planes, 29 helicopters and 151 tanks
  • Russia’s MoD has for the first time acknowledged suffering losses, but refused to say how many
  • Ukraine reports 352 civilian deaths since the start of the invasion, including 14 children. The UN puts the civilian toll at 102, including seven children. 
  • Russian economy entered freefall as Western sanctions put in place over the weekend took effect, with ruble sliding to its lowest level ever
  • Moscow’s central bank has more-than doubled the interest rate to 20 per cent
  • Russia orders people and companies to sell 80 per cent of their revenue in foreign currencies, forcing them to buy the ruble to help prop it up
  • Moscow stock exchange won’t open until at least 3pm in an attempt to head off all-out crash
  • Zelensky has allowed Ukrainian prisoners to be freed if they join defence forces to ‘repay their debt’ 
  • Ukraine president also announced creation of ‘international brigade’ for foreign volunteers wishing to join military, after ‘thousands’ applied 
  • Spain’s foreign minister called Putin’s order to put nuclear forces on high alert ‘one more sign of [his] absolute irrationality’
  • Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his country should be open to hosting nuclear weapons
  • Germany announced a $112million fund to rebuild the country’s armed forces, more-than double its current self-defence budget
  • EU announced, for the first time in its history, that it will send funds to Ukraine for weapons – including fighter jets 

 

Weapons rained down on the most Russia-friendly city in Ukraine – which sits 25 miles from the border and is home to 1.5million people – in a bid to break its will to resist.

The hail of bombs, shells and rockets which began falling at lunchtime left at least 11 dead, including three children, with homes and even a school reduced to rubble.

A military source told MailOnline that videos of the onslaught showed ‘cluster’ munitions – which are illegal under international law – had been used.

‘The BM-21 Grad is a multiple launch rocket system used for “area denial”, dropping cluster bombs on a concentrated area,’ the expert said. ‘It’s mainly used on enemy troops before an offensive. Used against civilians, it’s not only a war crime, but has only one purpose – to spread terror and alarm among the civilian population.’ 

Later on Monday, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S. claimed that Russia used a devastating vacuum bomb on Ukraine.  

Oksana Markarova, speaking after briefing members of the U.S. congress, said: ‘They used the vacuum bomb today, which is actually prohibited by the Geneva convention. The devastation that Russia is trying to inflict on Ukraine is large.’ 

The vacuum bombs, which are also known as thermobaric weapons, can vaporise bodies and crush internal organs. They use oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion, typically producing a blast wave of a significantly longer duration than that of a conventional explosive.

They are among the most powerful non-nuclear weapons ever developed. 

Ms Markarova’s comments came after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said he plans to open an investigation ‘as rapidly as possible’ into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. 

As Russia’s attempt to overwhelm Ukrainian forces continued, security sources said that, 96 hours in to the invasion, Putin had ‘stirred up a hornets’ nest’ by ‘underestimating the strength of the resistance’ and the ‘will of the people to fight’.

However, in a concerning statement that further signalled the ramping up tensions between the West and Putin, Russia’s foreign ministry promised that it would hit back against the EU after the bloc imposed sanctions.   

A spokesman also warned that ‘EU citizens and structures’ involved in sending weapons to Ukraine would be ‘responsible for any consequences’.    

Amid the ongoing fighting, it was announced that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Tuesday fly to Poland to visit British troops manning Nato’s eastern border with Russia. 

It comes after huge explosions rocked a suburb of Kyiv on Monday evening, just hours after the attack in Kharkiv. 

Dramatic video showed the moment that the night sky lit up with an enormous fire ball that reportedly stemmed from a military radar communication center in the Brovary suburb of the capital. 

The new explosion took place hours after the Kremlin warned civilians to leave the city via a ‘safe route’ to the south-west, amid fears that the city was about to come under further heavy attack. 

Russia used similar tactics in Syrian cities while fighting alongside Basahar al-Assad before its forces heavily bombed them. 

Russian armour was working to surround Kyiv with tanks manoeuvering to cut it off from the west, after attacks by advanced forces failed to penetrate the outskirts. 

New satellite images also showed how a military convoy that stretched more than 17 miles (27km) was moving closer to the capital, a private U.S. company said. 

U.S. company Maxar Technologies Inc said the convoy on the eastern edge of Antonov airport contained hundreds of armoured vehicles, tanks, towed artillery and logistics support vehicles and continued to move south towards Kyiv. Other images showed also Russian ground forces close in Zdvyzhivka, northeast of Kyiv. 

Colonel General Alexander Syrsky said early Monday that Kyiv had survived another night while inflicting ‘heavy losses’ on Russian attackers. 

In the attack in Kharkiv, 44 people are believed to have been injured.   

Graphic images and video revealed streets littered with the bodies of dead and badly wounded civilians, with other images showing showing spent BM-21 Grad rocket cartridges laying in the streets and having fallen through apartment roofs. 

Cluster munitions were also to destroy a school in Okhtyrka, activist group Amnesty said, in which three people including a child were killed. The attack ‘appears to have been carried out by Russian forces, which were operating nearby, and which have a record of using cluster munitions in populated areas,’ Amnesty said. 

‘There is no possible justification for dropping cluster munitions in populated areas, let alone near a school,’ secretary Agnes Callamard added.

The blasts mark some of the most serious attacks on civilians since the war began five days ago, and came after the first round of Ukraine-Russian peace talks – held in Belarus – ended without resolutions. 

A a second round of negotiations is set to be held in the coming days.   

Ukraine said ahead of the negotiations that it was seeking a ceasefire and total withdrawal of all Russian forces from its country, with President Zelensky saying he was not hopeful of results but had to try. Moscow would not be drawn on what its ambitions are.

Observers warned that the talks could pre-sage an increase in violence, as Putin increasingly deploys heavy weaponry that was absent from early fighting in an attempt to force a victory that he has been unable to achieve by subtler means.

Putin himself dashed many hopes for the talks on Monday when, in a call with Emmanuel Macron, he said that he is willing to negotiate with Ukraine – but on the basis that it is disarmed, ‘de-Nazified’, recognises Crimea as Russian soil and declares neutrality. Kyiv is highly unlikely to accept those terms.  

US intelligence believes around 75 per cent of Russian forces positioned on the borders with Ukraine are now inside the country.

Though Russian advanced forces have been fighting in Kyiv’s outskirts for several days, the bulk of Putin’s assault force is still located around 20 miles away having been slowed up by determined resistance fighters – with satellite images revealing a huge column of vehicles headed for the city. 

The cities of Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia, and Chernihiv were also bombed overnight, with air raid sirens sounding in other areas. 

In the south, Russians reported capturing the port city of Berdiansk with troops and armoured vehicles shown rolling through the centre, and were closing in on the city of Mariupol which was in danger of becoming surrounded – though remained under Ukrainian control as of the early hours.

Speaking on Monday morning, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Ukraine to be ‘immediately’ admitted to the EU – after the alliance stepped up to supply hundreds of million of dollars of military aid to Ukraine, a first in the bloc’s history – saying his country had ‘earned’ the right. He also said Russia’s attack had so-far killed 15 children, and wounded dozens more.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet says her office has confirmed that 102 civilians, including 7 children, have been killed, and 304 others injured in violence in Ukraine since Thursday, as she cautioned that the tally was likely a vast undercount.  

It came amid reports that Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko is poised to throw his own troops into the fighting, which US intelligence said could come as soon as Monday. The move follows on from Chechen forces being thrown into battle, which led to the almost-immediate destruction of a column of armoured vehicles and the death of one of their top generals.

Belarus on Sunday also voted to amend the country’s constitution allowing them to host Russian nuclear weapons, which came after Vladimir Putin’s chilling order to his defence chiefs to put the country’s nuclear weapons on ‘alert’ in response to ‘threats’ from the West.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that Russia’s decision to raise the nuclear alert was ‘a reckless, dangerous decision’. He added: ‘There’s no reason for that. NATO is no threat to Russia. We don’t seek confrontation with Russia.’

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of war crimes on Monday after Vladimir Putin's forces launched what were believed to be cluster and vacuum bomb attacks on the fifth day of their invasion. Above: Kharkiv, Ukraine's second city, coming under heavy attack on Monday

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of war crimes on Monday after Vladimir Putin’s forces launched what were believed to be cluster and vacuum bomb attacks on the fifth day of their invasion. Above: Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, coming under heavy attack on Monday

In a late night address directed at Russia, Zelensky said there would 'definitely be an international tribunal' for what he said was a 'violation of all conventions' and added that 'no one in the world will forgive you for killing peaceful Ukrainian people'

In a late night address directed at Russia, Zelensky said there would ‘definitely be an international tribunal’ for what he said was a ‘violation of all conventions’ and added that ‘no one in the world will forgive you for killing peaceful Ukrainian people’

The hail of bombs, shells and rockets which began falling at lunchtime left at least nine dead, including three children according to local officials, with homes and even a school reduced to rubble. Above: A woman sheltering in Kharkiv holds her newborn baby

The hail of bombs, shells and rockets which began falling at lunchtime left at least nine dead, including three children according to local officials, with homes and even a school reduced to rubble. Above: A woman sheltering in Kharkiv holds her newborn baby 

Body of a Russian soldier lays outside a school destroyed as a result of fighting not far from the center of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Body of a Russian soldier lays outside a school destroyed as a result of fighting not far from the center of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

The attack on Kharkiv is believed to have left nine people dead, including three children. Above: The aftermath of the strike

The attack on Kharkiv is believed to have left nine people dead, including three children. Above: The aftermath of the strike

Dramatic video filmed in the Ukrainian capital showed the moment that the night sky lit up with an enormous fire ball that reportedly stemmed from a military radar communication center

Dramatic video filmed in the Ukrainian capital showed the moment that the night sky lit up with an enormous fire ball that reportedly stemmed from a military radar communication center

New satellite images also showed how a military convoy that stretched more than 17 miles (27km) was moving closer to the capital, a private U.S. company said

New satellite images also showed how a military convoy that stretched more than 17 miles (27km) was moving closer to the capital, a private U.S. company said 

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A spent Russian rocket is seen embedded in the floor of an apartment building in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, after Putin’s forces unleashed a bombardment against civilian areas

Part of a Russian rocket is seen in the street outside a shop in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, after bombardment by Russian forces

Part of a Russian rocket is seen in the street outside a shop in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, after bombardment by Russian forces

A destroyed Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle is seen next to a spent missile casing in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, which came under attack from 'cluster' munitions on Monday

A destroyed Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle is seen next to a spent missile casing in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, which came under attack from ‘cluster’ munitions on Monday

In his address on Monday evening, Zelensky said that, since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, 56 missile strikes and 113 cruise missiles had been launched in Ukraine by Putin’s forces.   

What are thermobaric ‘vacuum’ bombs?  

Thermobaric weapons – also known as vacuum bombs – are high-powered explosive that use the atmosphere itself as part of the explosion. 

They are among the most powerful non-nuclear weapons ever developed.

The bomb works by using oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion, making it far deadlier than a conventional weapon. 

A thermobaric bomb dropped by the US on Taliban in Afghanistan in 2017 weighed 21,600 pounds and left a crater more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) wide after it exploded six feet above the ground.

Thermobaric weapons were developed by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. In September 2007, Russia detonated the largest thermobaric weapon ever made, which created an explosion equivalent to 39.9 tons.

The U.S. version of the weapon reportedly costs over $16 million each. 

Last week, it emerged that Russia may use the weapons if their assault in Ukraine became bogged down.   

A western official said: ‘My fear would be that if they don’t meet their timescale and objectives they would be indiscriminate in their use of violence.

‘They don’t adhere to the same principles of necessity and proportionality and rule of law that Western forces do.’ 

He added: ‘Today, Russian forces brutally fired on Kharkiv from jet artillery. It was clearly a war crime.’

‘Kharkiv is a peaceful city, there are peaceful residential areas, no military facilities. Dozens of eyewitness accounts prove that this is not a single false volley, but deliberate destruction of people: the Russians knew where they were shooting.’

‘There will definitely be an international tribunal for this crime — it’s a violation of all conventions. No one in the world will forgive you for killing peaceful Ukrainian people,’ he said.

On the eve of his visit to Poland, the PM said the UK will ‘continue to bring maximum pressure to bear’ on Russia as he pledged that Putin would ‘feel the consequences’ for invading Ukraine.

He said international leaders were united in agreeing that the Russian president ‘must fail’ after his decision to send troops into the neighbouring country.

Mr Johnson is due to meet with Warsaw and Tallinn leaders and visit British troops serving in Estonia, which shares a border with Russia.

Speaking before his visit to the two eastern European members of Nato, the Prime Minister said: ‘Today I will visit Poland and Estonia, two countries that are acutely affected by the current crisis in Ukraine.

‘We have shared values that are more important than ever to protect, as the humanitarian situation gets worse.

‘Alongside all our international allies the UK will continue to bring maximum pressure to bear on Putin’s regime to ensure he feels the consequences of his actions in Ukraine.

‘We speak with one voice when we say, Putin must fail.’

Officials said Mr Johnson will meet Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to underpin the UK’s financial and diplomatic support for central Europe as it faces the prospect of a humanitarian crisis, with Ukrainian refugees continuing to head for the Polish border.

The Prime Minister will then travel on to Estonia, where he will speak with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

They will jointly visit British troops serving ‘on the front line of Russian aggression’ in Tapa, No 10 officials said.

Mr Johnson will also meet Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Estonian President Alar Karis to discuss European security and stability.

The trip comes after Poland and Romania joined a G7, European Union and Nato leaders’ phone call on Monday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.

Downing Street said the leaders ‘agreed to pursue every avenue to ensure that Putin fails in his ambitions’.

During the call, Mr Johnson stressed the need for allies to continue to provide Kyiv with defensive weapons and the requirement to support Ukraine’s neighbours, which include Poland, in dealing with ‘large numbers of Ukrainians escaping violence in the country’.

It came as the ICC’s chief Karim Khan said he is planning a war crimes investigation. 

Mr Khan said in a statement that its investigation will look at alleged crimes committed before the Russian invasion, but added that ‘given the expansion of the conflict in recent days, it is my intention that this investigation will also encompass any new alleged crimes falling within the jurisdiction of my office that are committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine’.

Russia promises EU will face ‘harsh response’ for its support of Ukraine – and warns West against supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine 

Russia promised on Monday that it would hit back against the EU following its support of Ukraine and warned the West against supplying weapons to the country. 

A spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry said the steps the bloc has taken against it following its invasion of Ukraine, which include sanctions, will ‘not go unanswered’. 

It also warned that ‘EU citizens and structures’ involved in sending weapons to Ukraine would be ‘responsible for any consequences’.   

The threat came after the EU closed off its airspace to all Russian planes – which later saw Russian carrier Aeroflot suspend all flights to Europe – and banned Kremlin propaganda outlets Russia Today and Sputnik. 

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said last night that this was the first time the EU had done this for a country under attack. 

EU defence ministers were also set to discuss plans to send defensive weapons to Ukraine. 

The bloc’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said: ‘Half a billion euros [$560 million] will be devoted to providing defensive arms, high-calibre arms, and anti-tank [equipment] — all kinds of agreements in order to repel the aggression.

‘We have to coordinate what we are doing and what we can do additionally with these resources,’ he added.   

The court already has conducted a preliminary probe into crimes linked to the violent suppression of pro-European protests in Kyiv in 2013-2014 by a pro-Russian Ukrainian administration and allegations of crimes in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and eastern Ukraine, where Russia has backed rebels since 2014.

In December 2020, then-ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the probe uncovered indications that ‘a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed’ in Ukraine.

However, the court’s prosecutors had not yet sought permission from judges to open a full-scale investigation.

Mr Khan says he now wants to open the investigation envisaged by his predecessor and broaden it to include crimes committed in fighting since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week.

Mr Khan said he would continue to monitor developments in Ukraine, where there have been reports of civilian casualties, and he called for ‘restraint and strict adherence to the applicable rules of international humanitarian law’.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet says her office has confirmed that 102 civilians, including seven children, have been killed in the Russian invasion and 304 others wounded in Ukraine since Thursday.

She cautioned that the tally was likely a vast undercount.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine is among the court’s 123 member states, but Ukraine has accepted the court’s jurisdiction, which empowers Mr Khan to investigate.

Mr Khan has told his team to explore how to preserve evidence of crimes and said that the next step is to seek authorisation from the court’s judges to open an investigation.

However, he added that the process would be speeded up if a member nation of the court were to ask for an investigation in what is known as a referral.

That ‘would allow us to actively and immediately proceed with the (prosecution) Office’s independent and objective investigations,’ Mr Khan said.

He said he also would seek support from the court’s member states and the international community to fund the investigation.

‘I will be calling for additional budgetary support, for voluntary contributions to support all our situations, and for the loan of gratis personnel,’ he said.

‘The importance and urgency of our mission is too serious to be held hostage to lack of means.’

The blast in Brovary is said to have left people wounded, the area’s mayor said in a Facebook post on Monday night.

Monday’s peace talks ended without resolutions and a second round of negotiations will be held in the coming days, with a member of the Ukrainian delegation saying the discussions were difficult and the Russian side was biased.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter: ‘The Russian side, unfortunately, still has a very biased view of the destructive processes it has launched.’

Russian officials, meanwhile, said: ‘We have identified certain points from which we can predict general positions.’

Vladimir Medinsky, an aide to Putin, said another round of talks had been agreed to.

‘Another round of talks was agreed to,’ he said. 

‘Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, gave few details except to say that the talks, held near the Ukraine-Belarus border, were focused on a possible cease-fire and that a second round could take place ‘in the near future.’

‘The next meeting will take place in the coming days on the Polish-Belarusian border, there is an agreement to that effect.’

Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky earlier admitted he was not confident of a positive resolution, adding that he owed it to his people to at least try and engage.

He had been reticent to agree to talks in Belarus, a country used as a staging ground for the Russian invasion and which is now poised to join the war, offering instead to meet in Istanbul, Warsaw or Baku.

Ukraine had indicated it would request a ceasefire and full withdrawal of Russian forces but Moscow remained tight lipped over what the negotiations, held at noon in Gomel in southeastern Belarus, would entail. 

Some observers warned the talks could be a pretext for Moscow to ramp up its attacks on Ukraine if Kyiv’s officials refuse Russian demands.

Among those present at the talks were the Ukrainian defence minister, a lead advisor to the President’s office and the deputy minister of foreign affairs.

Huge explosions tonight rocked Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv after dozens were killed in Russian cluster bomb attacks in the eastern city of Kharkiv

Huge explosions tonight rocked Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv after dozens were killed in Russian cluster bomb attacks in the eastern city of Kharkiv

Ukraine war, day 5: Russian forces are now attempting to skirt around Kyiv and encircle it from the west. Troops fighting out of Crimea continue to make gains and are likely to surround Mariupol soon, while also reaching the outskirts of a key Ukrainian nuclear plant. Fighting in the east continues to be heavy with no breakthrough for Putin

Kyiv has been holding out for days against Russian attempts to breach the outskirts of the city, with tanks now trying to encircle it and a large column of armour approaching amid fears the fighting could get much worse

Kyiv has been holding out for days against Russian attempts to breach the outskirts of the city, with tanks now trying to encircle it and a large column of armour approaching amid fears the fighting could get much worse

A destroyed school is seen not far from the city of Kharkiv, which Amnesty said had been hit by cluster munitions

A destroyed school is seen not far from the city of Kharkiv, which Amnesty said had been hit by cluster munitions

This photograph shows a view of a school destroyed as a result of fight not far from the center of Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

This photograph shows a view of a school destroyed as a result of fight not far from the center of Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

The burned-out remains of a school are seen in the Kharkiv region, eastern Ukraine, after it was hit by Russian rockets

The burned-out remains of a school are seen in the Kharkiv region, eastern Ukraine, after it was hit by Russian rockets 

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A Russian tank is pictured driving through Borodyanka, to the north-west of Kyiv, as Russian forces attempt to encircle the Ukrainian capital from the west 

An armed Ukrainian guard is seen on the streets of Kyiv on Monday morning as security is stepped up amid fears of more-frequent and bloodier Russian attacks

An armed Ukrainian guard is seen on the streets of Kyiv on Monday morning as security is stepped up amid fears of more-frequent and bloodier Russian attacks

Security guards in Kyiv search a car amid fears that Russian undercover units will increasingly try to stage sabotage attacks in order to pave the way for a ground offensive

Security guards in Kyiv search a car amid fears that Russian undercover units will increasingly try to stage sabotage attacks in order to pave the way for a ground offensive

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Smoke rises over the city of Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, where fierce fighting is going on as Russian troops try to take it

Public Chernihiv reports that a rocket hit a residential building in the center of Chernihiv, northwest of Kyiv. A fire broke out with two lower floors ablaze. The number of injured is currently unknown

Public Chernihiv reports that a rocket hit a residential building in the center of Chernihiv, northwest of Kyiv. A fire broke out with two lower floors ablaze. The number of injured is currently unknown

An apartment building is pictured on fire in Chernihiv, north of Kyiv, as Russian forces continue to try and reach the Ukrainian capital en masse so they can seize the city

Smoke rises over Kyiv on Monday morning as the city awoke from a night of heavy Russian bombardment to relative calm, though there are fears that Moscow's troops could quickly step up their attacks

Smoke rises over Kyiv on Monday morning as the city awoke from a night of heavy Russian bombardment to relative calm, though there are fears that Moscow’s troops could quickly step up their attacks

A Ukrainian military vehicle is seen after the curfew was lifted, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv

A Ukrainian military vehicle is seen after the curfew was lifted, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov arrives to attend the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus's Gomel region on Monday morning

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov arrives to attend the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus’s Gomel region on Monday morning

Run on the Russian banks: Queues at ATMs as central bank hikes interest rate to 20% in bid to stop rouble crash 

Vast queues have been seen outside Russian ATMs despite the country’s central bank hiking interest rates in a bid to stop a run on the rouble.

Pictures show people in Saint Petersburg queuing around the corner to use nearby cash machines, as fears rise of an economic collapse due to biting Western sanctions imposed following Russia’s floundering invasion of Ukraine.

In a bid to stop a run on the rouble, Russia’s central bank, The Bank of Russia, is hiking interest rates from 9.5 per cent to 20 per cent this morning.

Its board of directors blamed a ‘drastic change’ on the ‘external conditions for the economy’ behind the massive interest rate hike.

Top economists and the finance ministry also ordered exporting companies to sell 80 per cent of their foreign currency revenues on the market to try to support the rouble – the value of which continued to collapse against the dollar and the euro on the Moscow Stock Exchange on Monday.

It comes as the Russian economy plummeted 30 per cent overnight to an all-time low as the West’s sanctions over the Ukraine war start to squeeze the economy.

The European Central Bank also warned on Monday that the European subsidiary of the Russian state-owned Sberbank – one of the Russian banks under UK sanctions – was facing bankruptcy. 

The dramatic changes have already seen Russians racing to cash machines and queuing for hours to try to withdraw their savings.

Western nations imposed sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s country after he launched a brutal war on neighbouring Ukraine last week, with the UK, US and EU cranking up restrictions in recent days.

Meanwhile the Russian President’s forces have so far failed to swiftly take over the country after a ferocious fightback from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s troops. 

But while Ukraine sent its defence minister and other top officials, the Russian delegation was led by Putin’s adviser on culture – an unlikely envoy for ending the war and perhaps a sign of how Moscow views the talks. 

Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has reported to Mr Putin that command posts of all of Russia’s nuclear forces have been boosted with additional personnel.

The Russian defence ministry said that the high alert status applies to all components of Russian nuclear forces, the strategic missile forces that oversee land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Northern and Pacific Fleets that have submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the long-range aviation that has a fleet of nuclear-capable strategic bombers.

While the exact effect of Putin’s order is unclear, it is likely to mean Russian nuclear warheads being moved close to launch systems such as missiles to allow them to be deployed at shorter notice. The two are usually stored separately to avoid the risk of a weapon accidentally being fired.

It could also mean mobile weapons being dispersed around the country to make them harder to track down and destroy, and bombs being loaded on to aircraft though not armed – again to reduce the time it would take to mount an attack.  

Putin’s order, while short of raising nuclear tensions to the levels seen between East and West during the Cold War, will add to fears that the war in Ukraine could rapidly escalate into a more far-reaching and devastating conflict – or that an accident could occur sparking potentially lethal consequences. 

The Russian president gave the order to Shoigu on Sunday – drawing a quizzical look from his usually-stoic defence minister, who is a veteran of every Russian president since the fall of the Soviet Union.

And a senior White House official described it as ‘yet another escalatory and totally unnecessary step’. They said in a statement: ‘At every step of this conflict, Putin has manufactured threats to justify more aggressive actions.

‘He was never under threat from Ukraine or from Nato, which is a defensive alliance that will not fight in Ukraine.

‘The only reason his forces face a threat today is because they invaded a sovereign country, and one without nuclear weapons.’

Max Bergmann, a former State Department official, called Putin’s talk predictable but dangerous sabre-rattling. ‘Things could spiral out of control,’ he warned.

The Russian leader is ‘potentially putting in play forces that, if there’s a miscalculation, could make things much, much more dangerous,’ said a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss rapidly unfolding military operations.

Putin’s directive came as Russian forces encountered strong opposition from Ukraine defenders. 

Russian invasion forces seized two small cities in southeastern Ukraine and the area around a nuclear power plant, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday, but ran into stiff resistance elsewhere as Moscow’s diplomatic and economic isolation deepened.

Having launched the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two, President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert on Sunday in the face of a barrage of Western-led reprisals for his war on Ukraine.

Blasts were heard before dawn on Monday in the capital of Kyiv and in the major city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian authorities said. But, Russian ground forces’ attempts to capture major urban centres had been repelled, they added.

Russia’s defence ministry, however, said its forces had taken over the towns of Berdyansk and Enerhodar in Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhzhya region as well as the area around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Interfax reported. The plant’s operations continued normally, it said.

Ukraine denied that the nuclear plant had fallen into Russian hands, according to the news agency.

This Maxar satellite image taken and released on February 28, 2022, shows a close up view of a deployment of Russian ground forces in Zdvyzhivka, northeast of Kyiv, Ukraine

This Maxar satellite image taken and released on February 28, 2022, shows a close up view of a deployment of Russian ground forces in Zdvyzhivka, northeast of Kyiv, Ukraine

This Maxar satellite image taken and released on February 28, 2022, shows a large deployment of ground forces in and around the town of Zdvyzhivka, Kyiv, Ukraine

This Maxar satellite image taken and released on February 28, 2022, shows a large deployment of ground forces in and around the town of Zdvyzhivka, Kyiv, Ukraine

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows destroyed vehicles and a damaged bridge in Irpin, Ukraine, west of Kyiv

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows destroyed vehicles and a damaged bridge in Irpin, Ukraine, west of Kyiv

As Western governments mustered more support for sanctions against Moscow, diplomatic manoeuvring continued with the Vatican joining efforts to end the conflict by offering to ‘facilitate dialogue’ between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine said negotiations with Moscow without preconditions would be held at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. Russian news agency Tass cited an unidentified source as saying the talks would start on Monday morning.

Liz Truss will launch savage broadside at Russian leader and accuse him of ‘murdering Ukrainians indiscriminately’ in UN address 

Vladimir Putin has ‘blood on his hands’, Liz Truss will say on Tuesday at a UN summit. 

In a speech in Geneva, the Foreign Secretary will condemn Putin’s brutal tactics and accuse him of ‘murdering Ukrainians indiscriminately’.

Miss Truss will say: ‘The consequences of Vladimir Putin’s unjustified aggression are horrific. 

‘Russian troops are laying siege to once peaceful cities. Tanks are tearing through towns while missiles barrage homes and hospitals. 

‘Putin is murdering Ukrainians indiscriminately. There is blood on his hands, not just of innocent Ukrainians but the men he sent to die.’

She will hint at potential war crimes prosecutions, accusing the Russian president of ‘violating international law, including the UN Charter’.

The Foreign Secretary will continue: ‘He is violating human rights on an industrial scale and the world will not stand for it. 

‘There are no shades of grey. It is about right and wrong. This is Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war against a sovereign nation.’

U.S. President Joe Biden was to host a call with allies and partners on Monday to coordinate a united response, the White House said.

The United States said Putin was escalating the war with ‘dangerous rhetoric’ about Russia’s nuclear posture, amid signs Russian forces were preparing to besiege major cities in the democratic country of about 44 million people.

British defence minister Ben Wallace said that he does not expect Russian President Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons.

As missiles rained down, nearly 400,000 civilians, mainly women and children, have fled into neighbouring countries, a U.N. relief agency said.

A senior U.S. defence official said Russia had fired more than 350 missiles at Ukrainian targets since it launched the invasion last week, some hitting civilian infrastructure.

‘It appears that they are adopting a siege mentality, which any student of military tactics and strategy will tell you, when you adopt siege tactics, it increases the likelihood of collateral damage,’ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson by telephone on Sunday that the next 24 hours would be crucial for Ukraine, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

So far, the Russian offensive cannot claim any major victories. Russia has not taken any Ukrainian city, does not control Ukraine’s airspace, and its troops remained roughly 19 miles from Kyiv’s city centre for a second day, the official said.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a ‘special operation’ that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists. 

Western-led political, strategic, economic and corporate sanctions were unprecedented in their extent and coordination, and there were further pledges of military support for Ukraine’s badly outgunned armed forces.

The rouble plunged nearly 30% to an all-time low versus the dollar, after Western nations on Saturday unveiled harsh sanctions including blocking some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system.

China’s foreign ministry voiced disapproval of the use of sanctions, saying it opposed unilateral, illegal action. Regarding Putin’s order to put its nuclear deterrent on high alert, it said that all sides should remain calm and avoid escalation. Japan and South Korea said they would join in the action to block some banks from SWIFT. South Korea, a major exporter of semiconductors, said it would also ban exports of strategic items to Russia.

Singapore, a financial and shipping hub, said it intended to impose sanctions and restrictions on Russia, the Straits Times newspaper reported.

Japan said it was also considering imposing sanctions against some individuals in Belarus, a key staging area for the Russian invasion.

A referendum in Belarus on Sunday approved a new constitution ditching the country’s non-nuclear status.

In the Baltic state of Latvia, the parliament gave its blessing to any citizen who wanted to fight in Ukraine against the Russian invaders.

Several European subsidiaries of Sberbank Russia, majority owned by the Russian government, were failing or were likely to fail due to the reputational cost of the war in Ukraine, the European Central Bank said.

Britain said on Monday it was taking further measures against Russia in concert with the United States and European Union, effectively cutting off Moscow’s major financial institutions from Western markets.

Russia’s central bank scrambled to manage the broadening fallout of the sanctions saying it would resume buying gold on the domestic market, launch a repurchase auction with no limits and ease restrictions on banks’ open foreign currency positions. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues at the Kremlin after Western sanctions took effect, causing the rouble to tank and Russian economy to shrink

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues at the Kremlin after Western sanctions took effect, causing the rouble to tank and Russian economy to shrink

People walk past burned cars a day after a shelling on a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine

People walk past burned cars a day after a shelling on a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine

People walk past burned cars a day after a shelling on a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine

People walk past burned cars a day after a shelling on a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine

A view shows destroyed Russian Tigr-M infantry fighting vehciles on a road in Kharkiv, Ukraine

A view shows destroyed Russian Tigr-M infantry fighting vehciles on a road in Kharkiv, Ukraine

A huge column of Russian tanks and support vehicles is seen near Ivankiv, around 40 miles north of Kyiv, on Sunday. The column is now thought to be around 20 miles from the city

A huge column of Russian tanks and support vehicles is seen near Ivankiv, around 40 miles north of Kyiv, on Sunday. The column is now thought to be around 20 miles from the city

Russian vehicles are pictured moving in convoy down a highway north of Kyiv at the city of Ivankiv, amid fears that Putin's army is about to significantly step up its assault on the city

Russian vehicles are pictured moving in convoy down a highway north of Kyiv at the city of Ivankiv, amid fears that Putin’s army is about to significantly step up its assault on the city

Russian ground forces in convoy near the city of Ivankiv as they advance towards Kyiv, which has been under bombardment and attack by Moscow's advance forces for days

Russian ground forces in convoy near the city of Ivankiv as they advance towards Kyiv, which has been under bombardment and attack by Moscow’s advance forces for days

Shoigu and Gerasimov - Russia's two most senior military officials - looked stony-faced during a meeting with Putin during which he ordered the country's nuclear forces on to higher alert

Shoigu and Gerasimov – Russia’s two most senior military officials – looked stony-faced during a meeting with Putin during which he ordered the country’s nuclear forces on to higher alert

Satellite images reveal damage to Gostomel Airport, on the ouskirts of Kyiv, after Russian forces attempted to capture it and use it to deploy paratroopers in an apparent attempt to end the war early

Satellite images reveal damage to Gostomel Airport, on the ouskirts of Kyiv, after Russian forces attempted to capture it and use it to deploy paratroopers in an apparent attempt to end the war early 

Damage is seen to the airport at Gostomel, Ukraine, after days of heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces

Damage is seen to the airport at Gostomel, Ukraine, after days of heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces

Smoke rises into the air over the runway at Gostomel Airport, near Kyiv, which has been the scene of heavy fighting

Smoke rises into the air over the runway at Gostomel Airport, near Kyiv, which has been the scene of heavy fighting

Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, second left, and Davyd Arakhamia, faction leader of the Servant of the People party in the Ukrainian Parliament, third right, attend 'peace talks' in the Gomel region, Belarus

Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, second left, and Davyd Arakhamia, faction leader of the Servant of the People party in the Ukrainian Parliament, third right, attend ‘peace talks’ in the Gomel region, Belarus

It also ordered brokers to block attempt by foreigners to sell Russian securities.

That could complicate plans by the sovereign wealth funds of Norway and Australia, which said they planned to wind down their exposure to Russian-listed companies.

Corporate giants also took action, with British oil major BP BP, the biggest foreign investor in Russia, saying it would abandon its stake in state oil company Rosneft at a cost of up to $25 billion.

The European Union on Sunday decided for the first time in its history to supply weapons to a country at war, pledging arms including fighter jets to Ukraine.

Germany, which had already frozen a planned undersea gas pipeline from Russia, said it would increase defence spending massively, casting off decades of reluctance to match its economic power with military clout.

EU Chief Executive Ursula von der Leyen expressed support for Ukraine’s membership in an interview with Euronews, saying ‘they are one of us.’

The EU shut all Russian planes out of its airspace, as did Canada, forcing Russian airline Aeroflot to cancel all flights to European destinations until further notice. The United States and France urged their citizens to consider leaving Russia immediately.

The EU also banned the Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council convened a rare emergency meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, or all the United Nations’ 193 member states, for Monday.

Rolling protests have been held around the world against the invasion, including in Russia, where almost 6,000 people have been detained at anti-war protests since Thursday, the OVD-Info protest monitor said.

Tens of thousands of people across Europe marched in protest, including more than 100,000 in Berlin.

Nearly, 71,000 Ukrainians had crossed into Romania since the invasion began, a Romanian government spokesman said.

Meta Platforms said it had removed a network of about 40 fake accounts, groups and pages across Facebook and Instagram that operated from Russia and Ukraine targeting public figures in Ukraine, for violating its rules against coordinated inauthentic behaviour.

Twitter said it had also suspended more than a dozen accounts and blocked the sharing of several links for violating its rules against platform manipulation and spam. 

Moscow has so far failed to win full control of Ukraine’s airspace, despite advances across the country. U.S. officials say they believe the invasion has been more difficult, and slower, than the Kremlin envisioned, though that could change as Moscow adapts.

The conflict – seemingly more quiet overnight Sunday than in past nights – could evolve significantly if Russia gets military help from neighboring Belarus, which is expected to send troops into Ukraine as soon as Monday, according to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of current U.S. intelligence assessments who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak publicly. 

The official said that whether Belarus enters the war depends on Ukraine-Russia talks set to happen in coming days.

Amid the mounting pressure, Western nations said they would tighten sanctions and buy and deliver weapons for Ukraine, including Stinger missiles for shooting down helicopters and other aircraft. European countries will also supply fighter jets to Ukraine, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, meanwhile, announced plans for a meeting with a Russian delegation at an unspecified location on the Belarusian border.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the meeting would take place, nor what the Kremlin was ultimately seeking, either in those potential talks on the border or, more broadly, from its war in Ukraine. Western officials believe Putin wants to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with a regime of his own, reviving Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.

The fast-moving developments came as scattered fighting was reported in Kyiv. Battles also broke out in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and strategic ports in the country’s south came under assault from Russian forces.

By late Sunday, Russian forces had taken Berdyansk, a Ukrainian city of 100,000 on the Azov Sea coast, according to Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Zelenskyy’s office. Russian troops also made advances toward Kherson, another city in the south of Ukraine, while Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov that is considered a prime Russian target, is ‘hanging on,’ Arestovich said.

With Russian troops closing in around Kyiv, a city of almost 3 million, the mayor of the capital expressed doubt that civilians could be evacuated. Authorities have been handing out weapons to anyone willing to defend the city. Ukraine is also releasing prisoners with military experience who want to fight, and training people to make firebombs.

In Mariupol, where Ukrainians were trying to fend off attack, a medical team at a city hospital desperately tried to revive a 6-year-old girl in unicorn pajamas who was mortally wounded in Russian shelling.

During the rescue attempt, a doctor in blue medical scrubs, pumping oxygen into the girl, looked directly into the Associated Press video camera capturing the scene.

‘Show this to Putin,’ he said angrily. ‘The eyes of this child, and crying doctors.’

Their resuscitation efforts failed, and the girl lay dead on a gurney, her jacket spattered with blood.

Nearly 900 kilometers (560 miles) away, Faina Bystritska was under threat in the city of Chernihiv.

‘I wish I had never lived to see this,’ said Bystritska, an 87-year-old Jewish survivor of World War II. She said sirens blare almost constantly in the city, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) from Kyiv. 

New members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces clean rifles they have been given in Kyiv, Ukraine

New members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces clean rifles they have been given in Kyiv, Ukraine

New members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces take part in training in Kyiv on Monday

New members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces take part in training in Kyiv on Monday

New members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces train with newly received weapons in Kyiv, Ukraine

New members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces train with newly received weapons in Kyiv, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered to Russian rebel forces in eastern Donbass region are show inside an assembly hall

Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered to Russian rebel forces in eastern Donbass region are show inside an assembly hall

Soldiers with Ukrainian flags on their sleeves are pictured after apparently being captured by Moscow's forces

Soldiers with Ukrainian flags on their sleeves are pictured after apparently being captured by Moscow’s forces

A man looks at an Ukrainian armored personnel carrier destroyed as a result of fight not far from the center of Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine

A man looks at an Ukrainian armored personnel carrier destroyed as a result of fight not far from the center of Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine

This picture shows Russian infantry mobility vehicles GAZ Tigr destroyed as a result of fight in Kharkiv

This picture shows Russian infantry mobility vehicles GAZ Tigr destroyed as a result of fight in Kharkiv

Firefighters perform damage control at the site of a shelling attack in Donetsk

Firefighters perform damage control at the site of a shelling attack in Donetsk

A building facade damaged in a shelling attack in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine

A building facade damaged in a shelling attack in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Ukraine faces a 'crucial' 24 hours as Russia throws even more ground forces at Kyiv

Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Ukraine faces a ‘crucial’ 24 hours as Russia throws even more ground forces at Kyiv

Chernihiv residents have been told not to switch on any lights ‘so we don’t draw their attention,’ said Bystritska, who has been living in a hallway, away from any windows, so she could better protect herself.

‘The window glass constantly shakes, and there is this constant thundering noise,’ she said.

Meanwhile, the top official in the EU outlined plans by the 27-nation bloc to close its airspace to Russian airlines and buy weapons for Ukraine. The EU will also ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The U.S. also stepped up the flow of weapons to Ukraine, announcing it will send Stinger missiles as part of a package approved by the White House on Friday. Germany likewise plans to send 500 Stingers and other military supplies.

Also, the 193-member U.N. General Assembly scheduled an emergency session Monday on Russia’s invasion.

Putin, in ordering the nuclear alert, cited not only statements by NATO members but the hard-hitting financial sanctions imposed by the West against Russia, including Putin himself.

‘Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,’ Putin said in televised comments.

U.S. defense officials would not disclose their current nuclear alert level except to say that the military is prepared all times to defend its homeland and allies.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC that Putin is resorting to the pattern he used in the weeks before the invasion, ‘which is to manufacture threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression.’

The practical meaning of Putin’s order was not immediately clear. Russia and the United States typically have land- and submarine-based nuclear forces that are on alert and prepared for combat at all times, but nuclear-capable bombers and other aircraft are not.

In Kyiv, terrified residents hunkered down in homes, underground garages and subway stations in anticipation of a full-scale Russian assault. Food and medicine were running low, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

‘Right now, the most important question is to defend our country,’ Klitschko said.

In downtown Kharkiv, 86-year-old Olena Dudnik said she and her husband were nearly thrown from their bed by the pressure blast of a nearby explosion.

‘We are suffering immensely,’ she said by phone. ‘We don’t have much food in the pantry, and I worry the stores aren’t going to have anything either, if they reopen.’ She added: ‘I just want the shooting to stop, people to stop being killed.’

Russia’s failure thus far to win full control of Ukraine’s airspace is a surprising lapse that has given outgunned Ukrainian forces a chance to slow the advance of Russian ground forces. Normally, gaining what the military calls air superiority is one of the first priorities for an invading force.

But even though Russian troops are being slowed by Ukrainian resistance, fuel shortages and other logistical problems, a senior U.S. defense official said that will probably change. ‘We are in day four. The Russians will learn and adapt,’ the official said.

The number of casualties from Europe’s largest land conflict since World War II remained unclear amid the confusion.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Sunday that 352 Ukrainian civilians have been killed, including 14 children. It said an additional 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been wounded.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov gave no figures on Russia’s dead and wounded but said Sunday his country’s losses were ‘many times’ lower than Ukraine’s.

Along with military assistance, the U.S., European Union and Britain also agreed to block selected Russian banks from the SWIFT system, which moves money around thousands of banks and other financial institutions worldwide.

Russia’s economy has taken a pounding since the invasion, with the ruble plunging and the central bank calling for calm to avoid bank runs.

Russia, which massed almost 200,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, claims its assault is aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods have also been hit.



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