Wednesday, February 21

Live coverage: Fighting intensifies in Kyiv


Russian forces on Saturday continued their assault on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his people to take up arms.

Follow The Hill’s live coverage below:

Ukrainian citizens take up arms amid the Russian invasion

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

2:27 p.m.

Ukrainian citizens are taking up arms amid the Russian invasion into the country, as one Ukrainian posed the question: ‘Who else but us?”

“My motivation is simple,” Zakhar Nechypor, an actor in Ukraine, told The New York Times in a video interview published on Friday. “It’s better than sitting at home and waiting for something to hit you. Who else but us?”

A Ukrainian member of parliament, Kira Rudik, posted a photo on Friday showing her brandishing a gun. 

“I learn to use #Kalashnikov and prepare to bear arms. It sounds surreal as just a few days ago it would never come to my mind. Our #women will protect our soil the same way as our #men. Go #Ukraine! ,” she tweeted. 

Hlib Bondarenko, a computer programmer, told the Times in their interview that while he was just an ordinary citizen, Russia’s “objective, clearly, at least to me, seems to be the occupation of my entire country and the destruction of everything that I love.”

“I’m just a regular civilian, I have basically nothing to do with war, or any other thing like it. And I wouldn’t really want to participate in anything like this, but I don’t really have any choice because this is my home,” he said.

Earlier in a press briefing on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his citizens to take up arms against Russia.

“Our military, our national guard, our national police, our territory defense, special service, nationals of Ukraine, please carry on. We will win. Glory to Ukraine,” Zelensky said.

Germany says its sending anti-tank weapons, stinger missiles to Ukraine

BY CHLOE FOLMAR

2:00 p.m.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Saturday that his country would send anti-tank weapons and stinger missiles to Ukraine, marking a major shift in policy for the richest country in the EU.

The German leader said that the Russian invasion of the former Soviet state marked a “turning point.”

“The Russian invasion marks a turning point. It is our duty to support Ukraine to the best of our ability in defending against Putin’s invading army. That is why we are delivering 1000 anti-tank weapons and 500 #Stinger missiles to our friends in #Ukraine,” Scholz tweeted.
 
The country will also lift its ban on nations exporting German-made weapons, allowing 400 rocket-propelled grenade launchers to be sent to Ukraine from the Netherlands, according to Axios.
 
Germany’s change of heart regarding comes after months of criticism from the international community over its response to the Russia-Ukraine situation. Previously, Germany disallowed its weapons to be transferred by NATO allies to Ukraine, according to the outlet. 
 
Germany sent 5,000 helmets and a field hospital to Ukraine before its invasion, but has refrained from any lethal aid.

Nearby countries including Poland, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have begun to send ammunition, fuel and medical supplies into Ukraine as it fights back against Russian forces.

Over 2,600 people detained in Russia in anti-war demonstrations 

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

1:30 p.m.

Over 2,600 people have been detained in Russia during anti-war protests, according to a site that monitors arrests made during demonstrations.

The site, OVD-Info, said on Twitter on Saturday that over 300 people have been detained Feb. 26, with close to half of the detainees apprehended in Moscow.

The site said that at least 2,776 people had been detained by officials in the last three days. 

The response from the Russian government, which has notoriously cracked down on protests in the past, launched its invasion into Ukraine early Thursday morning, local time. 

Demonstrations condemning Russia’s actions and calling for peace in Ukraine erupted in countries across the world since Thursday, with people in the U.S., U.K., Estonia, Germany, Japan and other areas waving Ukrainian flags.

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White House officials have called Russian protesting against the invasion “deeply courageous.”

“Despite Putin’s crackdown at home, dissenting views remain, and I think that’s important to note,” White House press secretary Psaki said on Thursday. “To publicly protest against President Putin and his war is a deeply courageous act. Their actions show the world that despite the Kremlin’s propaganda, there are Russian people who profoundly disagree with what he is doing in Ukraine.”

Former Ukraine president asks globe not to believe Putin

BY BRAD DRESS

12:07 p.m.

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko urged the world not to believe the narrative from Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinTrudeau announces sanctions on Putin, Russian foreign minister Overnight Defense & National Security — Ukraine hangs in the balance Capitals’ Ovechkin calls for ‘no more war’ with Ukraine MORE — but also not to fear him.

Poroshenko, who led Ukraine from 2014 to 2019, made the plea to CNN in an interview while armed with a rifle on the streets of Kyiv.

“I want to ask all the CNN viewers, all the people of the world, with one very simple request: Please don’t trust Putin. Don’t believe Putin. And two, don’t be afraid of Putin,” he told a CNN reporter on Saturday.

Putin, in a video on Friday, urged the Ukrainian military to overthrow its government, and called Ukraine’s government, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, “neo-nazis.”

Zelensky is Jewish and the grandson of Holocaust survivors. 

Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists have been fighting a war since Poroshenko’s presidency in 2014, when Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

Putin ordered a full-force invasion of Ukraine on Thursday morning, embroiling the country in a war. As of Saturday, Russian forces are pressing closer to Kyiv but are meeting resistance from Ukraine’s military.

Poroshenko said he was “ready” to die protecting his nation, but still believed Ukraine could emerge victorious from the conflict.

“I think Putin will never catch Ukraine despite, no matter how many soldiers he has, how many missiles he has, how many nuclear missiles he has,” he told CNN’s John Berman on Friday. “We, Ukrainians are a free people.”

Defense Department says Russia frustrated by Ukrainian resistance

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

11:49 a.m.

Russia is growing frustrated by the level of Ukrainian resistance its military has encountered during the invasion, according to a U.S. senior Defense Department official who briefed reporters on Saturday, USA Today reported.

The official said that there has been an increase in the influx of troops into the country. Thirty percent of Russian troops entered Ukraine as of Friday, but later, that number jumped to 50 percent. The Defense official added that the situation is fluid and constantly changing, the newspaper reported. 

The official also noted that multiple means were used by the Pentagon to confirm that Ukrainian military resistance had stalled Russian forces, according to USA Today.

The development comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video on Saturday that Russia had not succeeded in capturing Kyiv. 

Read the full story here. 

Estonia and Romania ban Russia from air space

BY BRAD DRESS

11:07 a.m.

Estonia and Romania on Saturday banned Russian airlines from their airspace, after the U.K., Poland, Moldova and the Czech Republic did the same.

 

Bogdan Aurescu, Romania’s foreign minister, tweeted on Saturday that his nation “joined other EU member states in banning RU airlines from our airspace.”

 

Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia, also announced her country’s ban of Russian airlines from its airspace via Twitter on Saturday.

 

“We invite all EU countries to do the same,” Kallas wrote. “There is no place for planes of the agressor state in democratic skies.”

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Latvia on Saturday said it would “close the airspace for airlines registered in Russia for commercial flights” with a decision on the matter currently under discussion at a meeting, according to Latvian Transport Minister Talis Linkait.

 

The U.K. has banned Russian airline Aeroflot, which prompted Russia to respond with banning British flights to and from Russia.

 

Delta Airlines also suspended a partnership with Russian airline Aeroflot on Friday.

 

Professional athletes, sports organizations condemn Russian invasion

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

10:34 a.m.

Professional athletes and organizations have taken a stand against the Russian invasion in Ukraine this week, condemning the attack and boycotting events in solidarity with the former Soviet nation.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a statement on Thursday condemning Russia’s invasion into its neighboring country, and it took its disapproval a step further on Friday, urging international sport organizations to relocate or cancel their sporting events in Russia and Belarus.

“The IOC [executive board] today urges all International Sports Federations to relocate or cancel their sports events currently planned in Russia or Belarus. They should take the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarussian governments into account and give the safety and security of the athletes absolute priority. The IOC itself has no events planned in Russia or Belarus,” the IOC said on Friday.

The IOC also said that the Russian and Belarusian flags and anthems should not be included or displayed “in international sports events which are not already part of the respective World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions for Russia.”

Read the full story here. 

Rep. Crow warns against posting about Ukrainian military movements on social media

BY BRAD DRESS

9:56 a.m. 

Correction: A previous version of this story had the incorrect first name for Rep. Crow. It has since been updated.

 

 

Social media has taken on a large role during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with users posting videos of the fighting and commenting about the conflict online. 

 

 

 

Other lawmakers have also weighed in on social media use during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

 

 

Facebook said it would set up a Special Operations Center staffed by experts to monitor and respond to posts.

People around the world protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

9:47 a.m.

From Washington, D.C. to Paris to Tel Aviv, people around the world this week protested Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, waving the Ukrainian flag and spotlighting its national blue and yellow colors.

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Colosseum in Rome, London’s Downing Street and the European Union headquarters in Brussels were illuminated in yellow and blue this week to show solidarity for Ukraine after Russia invaded the country, The Washington Post reported.

Demonstrators held signs reading “No war” in Tokyo and “Hands off Ukraine” in Berlin. A protester demonstrating outside of the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv lit her Russian passport on fire, CBS News reported.

Former Russian president threatens to retaliate with sanctions against the West

BY CHLOE FOLMAR 

9:34 a.m.

The deputy head of Russia’s Security Council said Saturday that Russia may respond in a hostile way to sanctions from the U.S. and European Union, The Associated Press reported.

In a post on a Russian social media site, Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia is considering leaving its latest nuclear arms deal with the U.S., cutting off diplomatic ties with the U.S. and EU and freezing the assets of Western countries after many of them condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Thursday.

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Medvedev added that Russia was mulling restoring the death penalty after being removed from a European rights group.

“We are being driven out of everywhere, punished and threatened, but we don’t feel scared,” Medvedev, the former president of Russia said.

Medvedev claimed that the U.S. had been “cowardly” leaving Afghanistan and is now using sanctions against Russia to make up for “shameful decisions” it has made in the past, according to the wire service. He described the Western sanctions as a show of “political impotence.”

BY BRAD DRESS

9:24 a.m.

Nearly 116,000 Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries since Russia first invaded the former Soviet Union country on Thursday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tweeted on Saturday morning.

Ukrainians have largely fled to Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania, the UN said.

In Poland, officials set up processing centers, a special train to transport patients and as many as 120 hospitals to assist Ukrainians.

UNHCR said it will soon publish an information portal for Ukrainian refugees.

Up to five million people could be displaced by the conflict, U.S. intelligence has warned.

Russia claims it has captured Melitopol in southeastern Ukraine

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

8:11 a.m.

BY CAROLINE VAKIL

7:42 a.m.

President Biden late Friday ordered the release of up to $350 million for military aid for Ukraine.

Biden ordered for the money to be allocated from the Foreign Assistance Act “in defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training, and to make the determinations required under such section to direct such a drawdown.”   

The development comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed in a video messageon Saturday that Kyiv was still under Ukrainian control after Russian troops entered the city yesterday, CNN reported.

“We have ruined their plans. They have no advantage over us,” he said, according to the network.

Zelensky urges Ukrainians to take up arms as fighting in Kyiv escalates

BY CAMERON JENKINS

7:35 a.m.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged citizens to take up arms to fight off Russia as violence between the two nations continues to escalate.

“Our military, our national guard, our national police, our territory defense, special service, nationals of Ukraine, please carry on. We will win. Glory to Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a press briefing, according to The Guardian.

Reservists in Ukraine have also been prepared to take on Russia, with officials providing them with arms and Ukrainian television stations broadcasting details on how to make Molotov cocktails, according to CNN.

Zelensky on Saturday morning also posted a video to Twitter declaring that Ukraine will not give up its fight.

“I am here. We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country, because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this,” Zelensky said in the video, which he appeared to film himself while standing on the street. 



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