Ukraine war: UN told hold emergency Ukraine session as Russia sanctions bite

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Ukrainian soldiers inspect a damaged military vehicle after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.

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The United Nations will hold an emergency session of all 193 member nations on Monday to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Eleven countries on the UN Security Council voted in favour with Russia against. China, India and the UAE abstained.

Meanwhile Ukrainian casualties continue to climb with the ministry of defence announcing that so far 352 Ukrainian civilians have been killed, including 14 children. It says an additional 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been wounded.

There are new signs that sanctions against Russia are starting to have an effect. An Austria-based subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned Sberbank has been ruled likely to fail after depositors fled due to the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia placed its nuclear arsenal — but also other heavy weapons, such as Kinzhal and Zircon hypersonic missiles — on “special” alert Sunday, the highest form of combat readiness for these units with President Putin citing sanctions and “aggressive statements” from NATO member states.

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Here are the key points to know:

    The United Nations will hold an emergency session on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Monday. Eleven countries voted in favour, Russia opposed, while China, India and UAE abstained.

    Civilian casualties: Ukraine’s Interior Ministry says 352 Ukrainian civilians have been killed during Russia’s invasion, including 14 children. It says an additional 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been wounded.

    The Kremlin has put its nuclear arsenal on alert, with President Vladimir Putin citing sanctions as the reason behind the decision.

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreed to have a Ukrainian delegation hold talks with their Russian counterparts at the country’s Belarus border.

    In EU’s first, the bloc decided to purchase and deliver weapons and military equipment to Ukraine, while also introducing further sanctions banning the likes of RT and Sputnik in Europe. 

    The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine since Thursday hits 368,000, says UNHCR.

    Discover: All the top developments from Sunday on our live blog here.

09:24

Norwegian energy giant Equinor to withdraw from Russian market

The Norwegian energy company Equinor has announced it will stop all investments in Russia and withdraw from its joint ventures in the country. “We are all deeply troubled by the invasion of Ukraine, which represents a terrible setback for the world, and we are thinking of all those who are suffering because of the military action,” Anders Opedal, President and CEO of Equinor, said in a Monday press release. “In the current situation, we regard our position as untenable. We will now stop new investments into our Russian business, and we will start the process of exiting our joint ventures in a manner that is consistent with our values. Our top priority in this difficult situation is the safety and security of our people,” Opedal said.Equinor is 67% controlled by the Norwegian state and has been in Russia for more than 30 years. Equinor had 1.2 billion dollars in assets in Russia at the end of 2021. On Sunday, the Norwegian government also announced that the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, would completely disengage from Russia, where it had 2.5 billion euros in stocks and bonds at the end of 2021.
 09:13

Russians say civilians can “freely” leave Kyiv – but city’s mayor doubts that’s now possible

The Russian military said on Monday that civilians are able to leave the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, as fighting continues on the outskirts of the city. “All civilians in the city can leave the Ukrainian capital freely via the Kiev-Vassylkiv highway” southwest of the capital Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Russian television.With Russian troops closing in around Kyiv, home to almost three million people, mayor Vitali Klitschko 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 a Sunday interview Klitchko – a former world heavyweight boxing champion – said the city could not be evacuated “because all ways are blocked.” “All ways are blocked and right now we are encircled – everywhere is Russians and we don’t have a way to evacuate the people. And everyone who had plans to evacuate himself already moved.”The mayor’s spokesperson later tweeted that the mayor had misspoken, and Klitschko himself later backed away from his earlier assessment, saying on his Telegram channel that “In the evening, Russian Internet publications spread information with reference to me that Kyiv is allegedly surrounded and evacuation of people is impossible. Do not believe lies! Trust information only from official sources.”Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv Mayor in his office in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.08:10

Russian Central Bank raises interest rates by 10.5 points

The Russian central bank announced on Monday to raise its key rate very sharply, by 10.5 points, to 20%, to face the severe economic sanctions decreed by the West to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

“The Board of Directors of the Bank of Russia has decided to raise the key rate to 20% per year,” said the monetary institution, quoted by Russian news agencies.

“The Bank of Russia will make new decisions on the key rate based on an assessment of the risks associated with external and internal conditions and the response of financial markets to these risks,” she added, while it tries to defend the ruble.

The United States, the European Union and other countries have announced that they will exclude certain Russian banks from the Swift international banking payment system and any transactions with Russia’s central bank.

The G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States – have warned that they will take “further measures” in addition to the sanctions already announced if Russia does not cease its operations military.

Several European subsidiaries of Sberbank Russia, majority-owned by the Russian government, are failing or likely to fail due to the reputational cost of the war in Ukraine, the European Central Bank, the lenders’ supervisor, said on Monday. The first casualty appeared to be Sberbank’s Austria-based subsidiary, after depositors fled.

The European Central Bank said early Monday that the bank had 13.6 billion euros in assets at the end of last year, but has experienced “significant deposit outflows” due to “geopolitical tensions.”

On the currency markets, the rouble plunged nearly 30 per cent to an all-time low versus the dollar on Monday.Read more here ⬇️

Russia’s Central Bank scrambles to deal with sanctions, falling rouble

euronewsRussian central bank scrambles to contain fallout of sanctions07:59

Ukraine military: Russia has slowed the pace of invasion 

Ukraine’s military said on Monday that Moscow had “slowed down the pace of the offensive” on the fifth day of its invasion of the country. 
“The Russian occupiers have slowed the pace of the offensive, but are still trying to achieve success in some areas” the Ukrainian general staff said in a statement. 
It comes as negotiators from Kyiv and Moscow had been due to meet for talks near Ukraine’s border with Belarus. 
Ukrainian president’s Constitutional Court representative Fedor Venislavsky told the country’s parliamentary TV channel Rada that negotiations are set to begin on Sunday night after the Kyiv delegation changed its route “due to security reasons”.
“To ensure the maximum safety of our delegation, they have taken a route that avoids any threat to their lives and that keeps their location unknown,” Venislavsky said.
However, it’s unclear whether those talks actually began, or if the two delegations even met. Read more here ⬇️ 

Russian and Ukrainian delegations to meet near border with Belarus

07:36

Australia to provide ‘lethal military equipment’ to Ukraine

Australia will provide lethal military equipment to Ukraine to help the Ukrainians resist the Russian invasion.

The Australian government’s announcement Monday gave no details on what material it may be sending but follows an offer on Friday of non-lethal military equipment, medical supplies and a $3 million contribution to a NATO trust fund for support of the besieged country.

Australia has imposed sanctions on more than 350 Russian individuals, including Russian President Vladimir Putin since Thursday.

Australia has also targeted with sanctions 13 individuals and entities in Belarus, including that country’s defense minister, Viktor Khrenin. Belarus is supporting Russia in its war with Ukraine.

07:31

Meta: Fake Russian accounts target Ukrainians on social media

Social media company Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, says pro-Russian groups have launched disinformation campaigns using fake profiles or hacked accounts to portray Ukraine as a mere pawn in Western hands. 

Meta says it has shut down fake accounts and blocked the sharing of web addresses linking to sites spreading fake news

These groups “run websites posing as independent news entities and create fake profiles on social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and also (Russian networks) Odnoklassniki and VK, Meta said in a blog post, pointing out that it had blocked a large number of fake accounts affiliated with the Russian state.  

“In some cases, they used profile photos which (…) were probably generated using artificial intelligence techniques” the company says.

The small network of fake Facebook and Instagram accounts uncovered by Meta targeted people in Ukraine, and helped spread false information about that country’s efforts to defend itself against the Russian invasion. 

This network has been identified by Meta as being linked to people in Russia and Ukraine, as well as NewsFront and SouthFront media organizations in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. According to the United States, NewsFront and SouthFront are disinformation outlets that take orders from Russian intelligence services.

These are among more than a dozen entities sanctioned by Washington for trying to influence the 2020 US presidential election, “under the leadership” of Russia.

Among the false assertions published by the sites: the West would have betrayed Ukraine, and Ukraine would be a bankrupt state.

Meta sign at Menlo Park, California, October 28th 2021 / AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File06:59

Russian bank ‘likely to fail’ amid signs that sanctions are beginning to bite

An Austria-based subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned Sberbank has been ruled likely to fail after depositors fled due to the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Central Bank said early Monday that the bank had 13.6 billion euros in assets at the end of last year, but has experienced “significant deposit outflows” due to “geopolitical tensions.”

The ECB says Vienna-headquartered Sberbank Europe AG “is likely to be unable to pay its debts or other liabilities as they fall due.” The bank is a fully owned subsidiary of Russia’s Sberbank, whose majority shareholder is the Russian government.

Europe’s bank resolution board separately says it has imposed a payments ban on money owed by the bank and a limit on how much depositors can withdraw. The board will decide on further steps, which could include restructuring, selling or liquidating the bank.

Sberbank Europe operates 185 branches and has more than 3,933 employees.

Meanwhile Asian stock prices have fallen after Western nations moved to tighten sanctions against Russia and as President Vladimir Putin escalated tensions by ordering Russian nuclear forces on high alert.

US futures fell, with the contract for the S&P 500 down 2.5% early Monday. The stock markets in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai declined while Sydney was higher.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused markets to swing wildly, given the potential impact on inflation, energy supplies and other areas. The Russian ruble has weakened sharply but was steady early Monday at 83.86 to the dollar.

Japan has joined the US, EU and other Western nations to block some Russian banks from the global SWIFT payment system.

06:52

Aeroflot flights breaks Canada’s airspace ban on Russian planes

An Aeroflot flight from Miami has broken a ban on Russian aircraft entering Canadian airspace.

Canada became the latest country to impose flight restrictions on Russian aircraft, announcing Sunday they would close their airspace to Russian airlines.

This comes after the 27-nation EU banned all Russian aircraft – although several individual EU countries had already announced their own individual bans. The United States has so far not done the same.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU ban would also include “the private jets of oligarchs.” 

Canada’s transport minister, Omar Alghabra, said his nation was closing its airspace to all Russian planes to hold the country accountable for an unprovoked attack on its neighbor. 

Despite this ban, a flight from the Russian company Aeroflot flew over eastern Canada on Sunday evening.

Although there are no direct flights from Canadian airports to Russia, Aeroflot flight 111 left Miami, in the south-east of the United States, for Moscow, flying over the Canadian east coast.

“We are aware that Aeroflot flight 111 violated the prohibition put in place earlier today on Russian flights using Canadian airspace” Canada’s transport ministry wrote on Twitter.

“We are launching a review of the conduct of Aeroflot”

06:43

Warning that Belarus could be set to join Ukraine conflict

A senior US intelligence official says Belarus is expected to send troops into Ukraine as soon as Monday to fight alongside Russian forces that invaded Ukraine last week.

Belarus has been providing support for Russia’s war effort, but so far has not taken a direct part in the conflict.

The American official has direct knowledge of current US intelligence assessments and says the decision by Belarus’ leader on whether to bring Belarus further into the war depends on talks between Russia and Ukraine happening in the coming days. The official spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive information.

Russian forces have encountered strong resistance from Ukraine defenders, and US officials say they believe the invasion has been more difficult, and slower, than the Kremlin envisioned, though that could change as Moscow adapts.

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