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Latest Russia-Ukraine updates: US to impose sanctions on Putin | Russia-Ukraine war News

Table of Contents

  • Russian forces are advancing towards Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, as they continue their assault on the country.
  • Bloody battles have taken place nationwide on the second day of the Russian attack.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for Ukraine’s military to remove the country’s government from power.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pledged to resist Russia’s invasion.
  • The UN says more than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled to other countries since the fighting started.
  • Western powers have announced sweeping sanctions on Russia, including measures targeting Putin himself.
  • US President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts have agreed to send thousands of troops, backed by air and naval support, to protect allies near Russia and Ukraine.

The live blog is now closed; thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for February 25:

Ukraine and Russia discussing place and time for talks: Zelenskyy’s spokesman

Ukraine and Russia are discussing a place and time for talks, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s spokesman said on social media on Friday.

“Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace,” spokesman Sergii Nykyforov added, refuting claims that Kyiv refused to negotiate with Moscow.

Ukrainian diaspora in US, Canada rallies against ‘surreal’ attack

The Ukrainian diaspora in the United States and Canada is demonstrating, fundraising, organising social media campaigns, and calling on elected leaders to act in response to Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.

“We are organising protests all over Canada to make sure people see and hear and know what’s going on,” advocate Orest Zakydalsky tells Al Jazeera.

Click here to read the full story.

Sanctions against Putin reflect West’s impotence, says Russian foreign ministry

The imposition of sanctions against Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reflect the West’s “absolute impotence” when it comes to foreign policy, RIA news agency has cited a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman as saying.

Maria Zakharova spoke before Biden announced sanctions against the two men. United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier announced similar punitive measures.

Kyiv falling is a real possibility: White House

The White House has said Kyiv falling is a real possibility.

Washington plans sanctions on Putin, Lavrov

The US government plans to impose sanctions on Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki has said.

Biden says NATO will maintain ‘Open Door’ policy

US President Joe Biden has said after speaking with leaders of NATO nations, that the military alliance would maintain its “Open Door” policy to European states who share its values and may someday seek to join.

Canada’s Ontario orders Russian liquor off store shelves

Canada’s province of Ontario has directed the Liquor Control Board Of Ontario (LCBO) to withdraw all products made in Russia from store shelves.

“The people of Ontario will always stand against tyranny and oppression. To that end, I am directing the LCBO to withdraw all products produced in Russia from store shelves,” Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said in a statement.

EU could cut Russia off from SWIFT system, senior official says

The EU could exclude Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system in a fresh round of sanctions, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola has said.

“Putin wants war. But people want peace, freedom and the right to make their choices,” she said on Twitter.

“Further, massive, sanctions, with nothing off the table, are important – we can do more. Including the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT system.”

Russia: Kyiv proposed to return to the issue of talks on February 26

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said that Kyiv had proposed to return to the issue of talks with Moscow on February 26, the Interfax news agency has quoted it as saying.

There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian authorities.

US State Dept exploring options to help locally employed staff in Ukraine

The US State Department is exploring all legal options available to help locally employed staff who were left in Ukraine after Washington pulled out its diplomats, Spokesperson Ned Price has said.

Price confirmed an earlier report in Foreign Policy magazine that the local employees had written to the department requesting help after Russia invaded.

The State Department was already working to assist the employees, including by paying them administrative leave and setting up a dedicated communications channel, Price said at a regular press briefing.

Russian troops stop near northeast city of Konotop: Ukraine’s land forces

Russian troops have stopped near the northeast city of Konotop after suffering heavy losses during a fight, Ukraine’s land forces have said.

“They have a problem with fuel and supply,” the statement said, adding there were cases of looting by Russian soldiers in local shops.

On the outskirts of the city, there were about 40 units of burned Russian equipment.

Bank sanctions are a sharper sword than cutting Russia off SWIFT, German minister says

The package of banking sanctions that the European Union is imposing will hit Putin’s government harder than excluding Russia from the SWIFT payments system, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said.

Excluding Russia from SWIFT would make it impossible to support civil rights groups in Russia from abroad, or for Russian students abroad to send money to help their grandmothers, she told ARD public television.

“The sword that looks hardest isn’t always the cleverest one,” she said. “It’s not just oligarchs who do financial transactions … The sharper sword at the moment is listing banks. Government bonds can’t be sold abroad any more.”

China says it respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and Russia’s security concerns

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has told senior European officials that China respects countries’ territorial integrity and sovereignty, including Ukraine’s, but that Russia’s concerns about NATO’s eastward expansion should be properly addressed.

Wang said the current situation in Ukraine is not something Beijing wished to see, but China historically has opposed United Nations Security Council actions promoting sanctions.

Wang made the comments in separate calls with the UK’s foreign secretary, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief and France’s presidential advisor, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.

Russia’s offer for talks with Ukraine is diplomacy ‘at the barrel of a gun’: US

Russia’s offer for talks with Ukraine is an attempt to conduct diplomacy “at the barrel of a gun,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price has said, adding  Russia must stop its bombing in Ukraine if it is serious about diplomacy.

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said earlier that Russia is ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital Minsk for talks.

Washington has not seen any indication Putin is willing to de-escalate in Ukraine, Price told reporters at a regular press briefing.

‘Thousands, thousands’ of Russians will die in Ukraine: Ukrainian official

As many Russian soldiers will die in Ukraine as during the two Chechen wars, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has warned.

“Thousands. Thousands,” Reznikov said, calling on Russians to take to the streets and demand an end to the war.

“Hide your loved ones if they are dear to you. Don’t send them to certain death! They will be killed from every window in every Ukrainian city,” he pleaded.

Russian invasion, control map Ukraine and attacks on Ukraine by Russia

UN Security Council vote on Ukraine delayed: Diplomats

A UN Security Council vote on a draft resolution that would condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has been delayed by one hour until 4pm local time (21:00 GMT), diplomats have said.

It was not immediately clear why the vote had been delayed. Diplomats said on Thursday it appeared at least 11 of the 15 member council would vote in favour, while it was unclear how China, India and the United Arab Emirates would vote. Russia is expected to veto the measure.

UK imposes asset freeze on Russia’s Putin and Lavrov

The UK has imposed sanctions to freeze the assets of Putin for launching an invasion of Ukraine, and of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who it said was a key decision-maker in Russia’s government, according to its UK sanctions list.

Blinken condemns reports of mounting civilian deaths in Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart and condemned reports of mounting civilian deaths, including those of Ukrainian children, due to attacks around Kyiv, a State Department spokesperson has said.

“The Secretary expressed his outrage at the Kremlin’s brutal tactics and underscored continued US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Spokesperson Ned Price said.

“The Secretary also emphasized to [Ukraine] Foreign Minister Kuleba that the United States would continue to provide support to Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russian aggression,” Price added.

Ukraine gathering war crimes evidence: Ambassador

The Russian assault on Ukraine was more brutal on Friday but Moscow’s forces did not advance as planned and Ukrainian officials are gathering evidence for possible war crimes prosecution, Ukrainian Ambassador to Washington Oksana Markarova has said.

At a news conference in Washington, Markarova also said Zelenskyy held a “very productive” phone call with Biden.

US expected to impose sanctions on Russia’s Putin as soon as Friday: CNN

The US is expected to impose sanctions on Putin as soon as Friday, CNN has reported, citing people familiar with the decision.

INTERACTIVE- Russia Ukraine Conflict at a glance FEB 24
(Al Jazeera)

Germany to send company of troops to Slovakia to join new NATO battlegroup

Germany will send a company of troops to Slovakia that will build part of a new NATO battlegroup to be established there, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht has said.

“We are working on quickly sending a company to Slovakia,” she told German public TV ZDF after talks with her Slovak counterpart.

Blasts heard near power station in Kyiv: Mayor

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, has said five blasts were heard in a close interval of three to five minutes near a power station in the north of the Ukrainian capital.

“The emergency services are underway. We’re finding out the details,” he said on Twitter.

He added that bridges in the city had been taken under protection and special control, as Russian troops are nearing, while checkpoints are being installed near strategic city objects.

“The situation now – without exaggeration – is threatening for Kyiv. The night, close to the morning, will be very difficult”.

US defence official says Russian forces have lost momentum amid stiff resistance

Russia’s drive to seize control of Ukraine has lost momentum amid stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces, both on the ground and in the air, a senior US defence official says.

“Their momentum, particularly as it comes to Kyiv, has slowed over the last 24 hours,” the official told reporters at a Pentagon briefing on condition of anonymity.

Russian forces have yet to seize any of Ukraine’s major cities, or achieve air superiority over the country, the official said.

“They have not achieved the progress that we believe they anticipated they would … [and] are meeting more resistance than they expected” the official added. “A good indicator of that is no population centers have been taken. None.”

War a ‘shameful capitulation’, Pope Francis says

Pope Francis has denounced the ills of conflict as Russia presses ahead with its invasion of Ukraine.

“Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil,” the leader of the Catholic Church said in tweets published in English and Russian.

UK says Russian forces continuing advance towards Kyiv

The United Kingdom’s chief of defence intelligence says Russian forces are continuing to press towards Ukraine’s capital.

“Russian forces continue to advance on two axes towards Kyiv. Their objective is to encircle the capital, to secure control of the population and change the regime,” Jim Hockenhull said.

“Russia continues to conduct strikes across Ukraine. Overnight, Russia launched a concerted series of strikes on targets in Kyiv. Multiple rocket launchers have been employed in Chernihiv and Kharkiv,” he added.

“Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to offer strong resistance, focusing on the defence of key cities.”

Russian invasion, control map Ukraine and attacks on Ukraine by Russia
(Al Jazeera)

EU places Putin, Lavrov on sanctions list after Ukraine invasion

The European Union has agreed to place Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on its list of sanctioned individuals, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief.

“Let me flag that the only leaders in the world that are sanctioned by the EU are [President Bashar al-] Assad from Syria, [President Alexander] Lukashenko from Belarus and now Putin from Russia,” Josep Borrell told a news conference after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Moscow’s goal is to ‘change’ Ukraine’s government, NATO chief says

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Moscow’s goal is “to change the government of Ukraine”.

“It is still a fluid situation. What we have seen is that the Ukrainian forces are fighting bravely and are actually able to inflict damage on the invading Russian forces,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels after a video summit with its leaders.

The NATO chief added the alliance was bolstering its defences with troops and air power on its eastern flank in response to Russia’s actions.

He said allies had activated defence plans and “as a result … are deploying elements of the NATO Response Force on land, at sea and in the air”. This included thousands more troops and over 100 fighter jets being put on high alert in 30 locations, Stoltenberg said.

In video clip from the capital, Zelenskyy says he is ‘defending Ukraine’

Zelenskyy has appeared in a self-shot video being shared on social media which shows the Ukrainian leader stood outside his official residence, donning a military uniform.

“We are all here. Our military is here. Citizens … are here. We are all here defending our independence, our country, and it will stay this way,” he said in the clip.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and other senior government figures can be seen standing behind Zelenskyy in the video.

More than 50,000 Ukrainians flee country in 48 hours: UN

More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled their country since the start of the Russian invasion, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees has said.

Filippo Grandi said the majority of those who had left had headed to neighbouring Poland and Moldova.

“Heartfelt thanks to the governments and people of countries keeping their borders open and welcoming refugees,” he tweeted.

Grandi’s update came after the UN refugee agency said on Thursday that an estimated 100,000 Ukrainians had already been internally displaced.

Russia puts ‘partial restriction’ on Facebook access

Russian authorities have announced access to Facebook will be partially restricted after the social media network banned the accounts of several Kremlin-backed news outlets over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it had demanded that Facebook lift the bans it had on Thursday placed on state news agency RIA Novosti, state TV channel Zvezda, and pro-Kremlin news sites Lenta.Ru and Gazeta.Ru. The agency said Facebook didn’t reinstate the media outlets.

Roskomnadzor cast its action as a move “to protect Russian media.” It said Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s office found Facebook “complicit in violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, as well as the rights and freedoms of Russian nationals”.

It did not clarify what exactly the move means.

Russia banned from Eurovision song contest

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has banned Russia from taking part in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, saying the country’s involvement would “bring the competition into disrepute”.

Finland said earlier on Friday it would not send contestants to the Eurovision 2022 final if Russia was allowed to participate, while other European public broadcasters, including Ukraine’s, called for Russia to be expelled from the decades-old and hugely popular song contest.

Amid Russian bombing, Ukrainians seek shelter in a church

On the first day of Russia’s invasion, in an evangelical church in Mariupol, people gathered for safety and to pray for Ukraine as fighting raged nearby.

Click here to read more.

Lone Ukrainian civilian attempts to stop Russian military convoy

A video being shared on social media appears to show a lone Ukrainian civilian trying to block a large Russian armoured column of military vehicles.

The footage, captured in the southern city of Kherson, has echoes of Tiananmen Square’s so-called “Tank Man” and comes as battles continue to rage throughout the country.

Russia claims Kyiv has gone silent on talks

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said there is a “pause” in contact between Moscow and Kyiv over possible in-person talks between the two sides following a discussion over where any such meeting should take place.

Peskov said Moscow had offered to hold the talks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, but Kyiv had instead proposed Warsaw as a venue.

He said the Ukrainians had then taken what he described as quite a long time-out. During that pause, he claimed Ukrainian “nationalists” had deployed missile systems in residential areas within the country’s big cities, mirroring claims made by Putin.

Peskov did not provide evidence to support his assertion but said it was a very dangerous development. There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian authorities.

Read more here.

Ukrainians build makeshift roadblocks to stall Russian advance

Some Ukrainians are building makeshift roadblocks in a bid to stall Russian troops.

Vladimir, a former coalmine owner who fled Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk for Kyiv in 2014, when Russian-backed separatists took control of swaths of territory there, is among them.

The 47-year-old’s fortification, which features several concrete slabs and about a dozen sandbags, stands in the town of Rzhyshchiv, on the outskirts of Kyiv.

It is manned by six men, including Vladimir, who declined to give his surname. Two of those guarding the site are armed with hunting rifles.

“We won’t stop tanks with it, but we can stop other vehicles,” he told Al Jazeera, adding he had paid for the supplies from his own pocket.

Dozens of similar roadblocks have reportedly sprung up around the capital and elsewhere in Ukraine.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Curfew rolled out in Lviv: Report

Ukraine’s western city of Lviv has introduced a curfew, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reports, citing a city official.

“The curfew is introduced from 22:00 to 06:00. We will provide passes to residents of the region employed in critical infrastructure,” Interfax quoted the head of local military administration Maxim Kozitsky as saying.

Thousands of Ukrainians have fled west in a bid to avoid Russia’s assault, which has targeted Ukraine from the north, south and east.

Russia suspended from Council of Europe

Russia has been suspended from the Council of Europe, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio says.

The Council of Europe was formed after World War II to protect human rights and the rule of law across the continent. It is separate from the EU.

“The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, of which Italy holds the presidency, has taken the decision to exclude the Russian Federation from its membership,” Di Maio said in a statement.

“Italy considers this to be a necessary measure in light of Russia’s unacceptable military aggression against Ukraine, which constitutes a serious violation of international law,” he added.

‘Take power into your own hands,’ Putin urges Ukraine’s armed forces

Putin has called on Ukraine’s military to seize power from Zelenskyy’s government.

“I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: do not allow neo-Nazis and Ukrainian radical nationalists to use your children, wives and elders as human shields,” Putin said at a televised meeting with Russia’s security council.

“Take power into your own hands, it will be easier for us to reach agreement,” he added.

Putin’s remarks came hours after Zelenskyy urged his country’s forces to hold their ground amid Russia’s offensive. “Stay strong, you are everything we have got,” the Ukrainian leader told troops while delivering a video address to the nation dressed in military uniform.

Ukrainian servicemen are seen riding on tanks towards the front line with Russian forces in the Luhansk region of Ukraine
Zelenskyy has urged Ukraine’s country’s forces to hold their ground amid Russia’s offensive [Anatolii Stepanov/AFP]

Ukrainian official says 2,800 Russian troops killed

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister has claimed that approximately 2,800 Russian troops have been killed in fighting so far.

Ukrainian forces had also destroyed about 80 Russian tanks, 516 armoured combat vehicles, 10 aircraft and seven helicopters as of 3pm local time (13:00 GMT), Hanna Malyar said in a statement posted on Facebook.

There was no immediate response to the claims from Moscow, and Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

Germany says EU will ‘severely’ sanction Putin, Lavrov

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says new EU sanctions against Russia will personally target Putin and Lavrov for their responsibility in the invasion of Ukraine.

“They are responsible for the death of innocent people in Ukraine. They are responsible that the international system is trampled and we as Europeans do not accept that,” Baerbock said as she arrived for a meeting with her EU counterparts at the bloc’s headquarters in Brussels.

‘The problem for the Kremlin is Zelenskyy’

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Moscow, says Russia’s suggestions it is ready for talks with Ukraine in Minsk were made after Moscow called for Kyiv to “lay down its arms” and warned it could never recognise Zelenskyy’s government as democratic.

“It is worth reminding people that the current Ukrainian president was elected in 2019 with a landslide 73 percent share of the vote, so he was democratically elected,” Smith said.

“But clearly, the problem for the Kremlin is Zelenskyy, and whether they will be able to have talks while he remains in power is unclear,” he added.

Zelenskyy had appealed for talks with Putin prior to the Kremlin’s suggestions of a summit in the Belarusian capital, which has hosted previous rounds of discussions between officials from Ukraine and Russia.

“I would like to address the President of the Russian Federation once again. There is fighting all over Ukraine now. Let’s sit down at the negotiation table to stop the people’s deaths,” Zelenskyy said in a video message to the nation.

EU close to agreement on sanctioning Putin, Lavrov, Luxembourg foreign minister says

Luxembourg’s foreign minister says the EU is close to reaching an agreement on sanctions targeting Putin and Lavrov.

“I think we are very close to an agreement,” Jean Asselborn told reporters in Brussels.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg also indicated that measures directly targeting Putin and Lavrov will be introduced imminently.

Ukrainian military vehicles enter Kyiv as Russian assault looms

Ukrainian military vehicles are entering the country’s capital Kyiv to defend it against approaching Russian troops, Ukraine’s interior ministry says.

Turkey says it cannot stop returning Russian warships from accessing Black Sea

Turkey cannot stop Russian warships accessing the Black Sea via its straits, as Ukraine has requested, due to a clause in an international pact that allows vessels to return to their home base, the Turkish foreign minister says.

Kyiv had appealed to Ankara to block Russian vessels from passing through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus Straits, which lead to the Black Sea.

Russian forces landed at Ukraine’s Black and Azov Sea ports as part of Moscow’s attack on its neighbour.

Russian invasion, control map Ukraine and attacks on Ukraine by Russia

Russia ready for talks with Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman says

Putin is ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital Minsk for talks with Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says.

Peskov told Russian news agencies that the contingent of officials could include representatives from the country’s foreign and defence ministries.

His remarks came after an adviser of Zelenskyy suggested Kyiv was ready for talks with Moscow, including on adopting a neutral status regarding NATO.

Peskov said demilitarisation would need to be an essential part of that.

Russia claims capture of airfield northwest of Kyiv

Russia’s defence ministry says its forces have captured the strategic Hostomel airfield, situated just seven kilometres (four miles) northwest of Kyiv, and landed paratroopers in the area.

It added troops had blocked access to Kyiv from the west, and Moscow-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine had attacked Ukrainian army positions with Russian support.

The Hostomel airfield has been the site of some of the most intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces. The site has a long runway capable of accommodating heavy transport planes.

Its seizure could allow Russia to airlift troops directly to Kyiv’s outskirts.

Ukrainian soldiers are seen taking up positions on a bridge in Kyiv
Ukrainian forces are readying for a Russian assault on Kyiv [Emilio Morenatti/AP]

‘Hold your ground’: Ukraine’s president pleads for troops to defend the country

Zelenskyy has made a desperate appeal to Ukraine’s armed forces as Russia’s forces continue to press ahead with their invasion.

“I want to say to our troops – hold your ground, you are all that we have,” the Ukrainian president said.

His appeal came as the Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko said the capital had entered into a “defensive phase”, with Russian units expected to try and seize control of the city imminently.

“The city has gone into a defensive phase. Shots and explosions are ringing out in some neighbourhoods saboteurs have already entered Kyiv. The enemy wants to put the capital on its knees and destroy us,” Klitschko told a news briefing.

EU threatens Russia with further sanctions

The EU’s executive arm has warned Moscow that the bloc could impose further sanctions on Russia, a day after its leaders agreed on a robust package of measures in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

“When it comes to the sequencing of packages we have always said we have a massive package prepared and we will be applying this package in a progressive way, responding to concrete actions by Russia, and we are not at the end,” European Commission spokesman Peter Stano told a daily news conference.

Ukrainian president urges EU to toughen sanctions on Russia

Zelenskyy has urged Kyiv’s European allies to act more quickly and forcefully in imposing sanctions on Moscow for invading Ukraine, accusing the continent’s leaders of politicking as Russia’s forces advance on Kyiv.

“Europe has enough strength to stop this aggression,” the Ukrainian president said, adding that everything from banning Russians from entering the EU to cutting Moscow off from SWIFT to an oil embargo should be on the table.

“You still can stop this aggression. You have to act swiftly,” he said.

In call with Putin, Xi says China supports dialogue: Report

Chinese state television network CCTV reports the country’s president, Xi Jinping, has told Putin that Beijing supports Moscow in efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis via dialogue.

The leaders held talks on the situation by phone, CCTV reported.

Who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Europe’s most vulnerable president?

Zelenskyy has said he believes Moscow has marked him down as “the number one target” amid Russia’s invasion of his country.

“They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state,” he said.

But who is the comedian turned politician now facing down the Kremlin as it reportedly seeks regime change?

Click here to find out.

Syria’s Assad offers Putin his backing

Al-Assad has called Putin to express his support for Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, according to a statement issued by the Syrian president’s office.

“During the call, they talked about the situation in Ukraine and the special military operation by the Russian Federation to protect the civilian population in the Donbas region,” the statement said.

“President al-Assad stressed that what is happening today is a correction of history and a restoration of balance in the global order after the fall of the Soviet Union,” it added.

Damascus is a staunch ally of Moscow, which intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015 to support al-Assad, turning the tide of the conflict in his favour.

A Russian Army military vehicle is seen in the annexed-Crimean peninsula
Russian forces have attacked Ukraine by land, air and sea as part of a multi-pronged invasion ordered by Putin [Reuters]

Only way forward for Ukraine is neutrality, Russian spy chief says

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence chief has said the only way forward for Ukraine is neutrality after an adviser of Zelenskyy suggested Kyiv was ready for talks with Moscow, including on adopting a neutral status regarding NATO.

Sergei Naryshkin’s remarks came after the Kremlin said it had noted the statement by Mykhailo Podolyak, given to the Reuters news agency, and was in the process of analysing his comments.

Ukraine was promised eventual NATO membership as far back as 2008, drawing Moscow’s ire. In the run-up to Russia’s invasion, Putin demanded that the United States-led alliance commit to never accepting Kyiv into its ranks.

NATO and Washington flatly rejected to provide such guarantees.

US eyeing training Ukrainian troops remotely: Report

The US is considering ways to train Ukrainian forces remotely if Russia takes control of the country, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin has told officials from the House of Representatives, according to a report by the Axios news website.

The secretary of defence also said on his call with legislators that Washington was looking into providing Kyiv with more defence equipment, but that doing so had become more difficult amid the Russian advance, Axios reported, citing officials familiar with the matter.

Austin reportedly added that the US will continue to support Zelenskyy’s government for as long as it remained “viable”.

What is SWIFT and could it be used to punish Putin?

Russia’s invasion has triggered sanctions against the country as well as calls to sever it from the main global payments system.

Ejecting it from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network could cripple Moscow’s ability to trade with most of the world and deal a heavy blow to the Russian economy.

Click here to read Al Jazeera’s explainer.

Moscow says Ukraine must lay down arms before talks can take place

Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow will only be ready to hold talks with Kyiv once Ukraine’s military has laid down its arms.

Lavrov also claimed Russia wants the Ukrainian people to be independent and have the possibility to freely define their destiny, but warned the Kremlin did not want “neo-Nazis” to govern Russia’s neighbour.

He added Russia sees no possibility of recognising the current Ukrainian government as democratic.

The view from Kyiv, via The Take podcast

In this episode, Al Jazeera’s The Take podcast explores Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through the eyes of one woman in Kyiv.

Kyiv authorities warn residents ‘active hostilities’ are approaching

Local authorities in Kyiv have told residents in the city’s north-western Obolon district to stay off the streets as “active hostilities” are approaching.

“In connection with the approach of active hostilities, residents of Obolon district are asked not to go outside,” the city council said in an alert.

UN rights office condemns Russia anti-war protests arrests

A spokeswoman for the UN’s human rights office has condemned the “arbitrary” arrests of more than 1,800 people in Russia for protesting against the country’s invasion of Ukraine and called for their immediate release.

“Arresting individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression or a peaceful assembly constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of liberty,” Ravina Shamdasani told reporters.

At least 1,831 protesters were detained by police at anti-war demonstrations held in 60 cities throughout Russia on Thursday evening, according to the OVD-Info monitoring group.

UEFA shifts Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris

UEFA has announced it will move this year’s Champions League final from Saint Petersburg to Paris in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

European football’s governing body also said that the home games of Ukrainian and Russian club and national teams competing in UEFA competitions will be played at neutral venues “until further notice”.

“UEFA will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement,” it added in a statement.

Kyiv’s residents take shelter in metro stations

Thousands of people have taken shelter in metro stations throughout the Ukrainian capital amid Russia’s assault.

“They always do the ugliest things at dawn, so I am spending the night here,” Tetyana Udovichenko, 61, told Al Jazeera overnight from inside the Druzhby Narodiv station.

Udovichenko, an accountant, said she had taken his 82-year-old mother Olha Krisevich underground with him. The pair were joined by dozens of other people, who arrived shortly after 7pm local time (17:00 GMT) on Thursday carrying blankets, suitcases and even, in some instances, pets.

Many looked distressed, but some opted for dark humour instead and aimed scornful jokes at Putin for ordering an invasion of their country.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Kyiv residents are seen seeking shelter inside the city's Druzhby Narodiv metro station
Many of Kyiv’s residents have headed underground to the city’s numerous metro stations in order to seek shelter from Russia’s assault [Mansur Mirovalev/Al Jazeera]

Hungary opens humanitarian corridor for third-country citizens fleeing Ukraine

Hungary will open a humanitarian corridor for citizens from third-party countries like Iran or India fleeing Ukraine, letting them in without visas and taking them to the nearest international airport, in Debrecen, the Hungarian foreign minister says.

Peter Szijjarto also said in a video posted on his Facebook page that crossing from Ukraine was continuous at five crossing points but cars were queuing for up to three-five kilometres on the Ukrainian side.

His remarks came after Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, said he had requested Hungary’s assistance to evacuate Iranian citizens from Ukraine during a phone call with Szijjarto.

Iran’s foreign ministry had previously said it was seeking a permit to send a flight to Kyiv to repatriate its citizens, but it appears Russia’s offensive has eliminated that possibility.

Ukraine says Russia building up more troops in Belarus to assault Kyiv

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has said Russia is using the Gomel airfield in Belarus to line up troops to assault Kyiv due to damage to the Hostomel military airport near the capital.

The military department said in a statement on Facebook that Russian forces were also currently advancing on the city from several directions as Ukrainian forces battled around Mariupol in the south and Kharkiv in the northeast of the country.

“In order to intimidate the population of Ukraine, the enemy is increasingly choosing to destroy civilian infrastructure and housing,” it said.

‘Armoured columns’ heading for Kyiv

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Kyiv, says the situation there is rapidly “escalating in every respect”.

“That is not just in the air but on the ground as well – there are armoured [Russian] columns heading towards the city,” he said. “There is real anger in the air … and the hatred for Putin is palpable.

“Furthermore, there are a number of places in the city where people can get a gun of their choice, particularly an AK47, to defend themselves and that is the policy of the presidency. Zelenskyy wants everyone to fight.

“What we are going to find is that when these Russian forces reach the capital there is likely to be fierce resistance. The overall mood is one of horrendous fear of what’s going to happen next.”

INTERACTIVE- Russia Ukraine Conflict at a glance FEB 24

Russian foreign minister to hold talks with Donbas officials

Lavrov will hold talks with officials from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics of eastern Ukraine later on Friday in Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry says.

Putin signed decrees on Monday to recognise two breakaway regions as independent statelets, before ordering what he termed a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – collectively known as the Donbas – broke away from Ukrainian government control in early 2014 and proclaimed themselves independent “people’s republics”.

Ukraine slams ‘horrific’ strikes on Kyiv amid Russian advance

Invading Russian forces are pressing deep into Ukraine.

Deadly battles have reached the outskirts of Kyiv, and multiple explosions have been heard in the capital, with Ukraine’s besieged government accusing Russian forces of having carried out a slew of “horrific rocket strikes” in the city.

Read more here.

Russia claims captures of Black Sea island south of Odesa

Russia’s defence ministry claims its forces have captured Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, in the Black Sea.

The ministry said 82 Ukrainian soldiers stationed there had surrendered to Russian forces.

Ukrainian officials have said that all 13 border guards deployed on the island south of the port city of Odesa were killed by arms fire from a Russian warship.

Al Jazeera was unable to verify either side’s claims.

Kyiv says Russian forces have struck dozens of civilian sites: Report

Russian forces have bombed more than 30 civilian sites since the beginning of their attack on Ukraine, the country’s interior ministry has said, according to a report by the Interfax news agency.

“The Russians say they are not striking civilian objects. But 33 civilian sites have been hit over the last 24 hours,” Vadym Denysenko, a ministry official, was quoted as saying.

Firefighters are seen working at a damaged residential building in a suburb of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv
Zelenskyy has accused Russia’s forces of targeting Ukraine’s civilians [Genya Savilov/AFP]

Russia to deploy paratroopers to guard Chernobyl site

Russia will deploy paratroopers to help guard the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant, a spokesman for the country’s defence ministry has said.

Radiation levels at the plant are normal, the spokesman told a briefing. Russian troops captured the site during the first day of their invasion.

Ukrainian president appeals for ‘anti-war coalition’

Zelenskyy says he has spoken with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda to seek defence assistance from Eastern European members of NATO and help in bringing Russia to the negotiating table.

“We need [an] anti-war coalition,” the Ukrainian president tweeted.

Kyiv is an ally of NATO but not a full member of the alliance.

‘A litany of air raids’ in Kyiv

Al Jazeera’s Simmons, reporting from Kyiv, says the situation in the city is “horrific”.

“There was a litany of air raids overnight and one success for the Ukrainian defence [effort] in that they shot down one of Russia’s [aerial] bombers, but that unfortunately crashed down into a civilian area, causing an unknown number of casualties, but it has left at least one person dead,” Simmons said.

“There have also been a large number of air raids since dawn, on three occasions the air raid sirens have gone off and a civilian area was struck by one of those raids,” he added, noting the city’s hospitals were “struggling with the number of casualties right now”.

Simmons said the number of civilian casualties was not clear, however.

UK says Russia intends to take the whole of Ukraine

Russia intends to take the whole of Ukraine but the Russian army failed to deliver on the first day of its invasion, the UK’s defence secretary has said.

“It’s definitely our view that the Russians intend to invade the whole of Ukraine,” Ben Wallace told UK broadcaster Sky News, adding that London believed more than 450 Russian military personnel had been killed since the assault began.

The UK supplied Kyiv with defensive weaponry in the weeks leading up to Moscow’s attack, as tensions between Ukraine and Russia built over the latter’s military build-up along its neighbour’s borders.

Ukraine expects imminent tank attack on Kyiv

Ukraine expects a Russian tank attack on Kyiv in the coming hours, an adviser to the country’s interior minister says.

Anton Herashchenko, the adviser, said the defenders of Kyiv were ready with anti-tank missiles supplied by foreign allies.

War crimes court prosecutor concerned over invasion

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan has expressed his concern over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and said the body may investigate possible war crimes in the country.

“I remind all sides conducting hostilities on the territory of Ukraine that my office may exercise its jurisdiction and investigate any act of genocide, crime against humanity or war crime committed within Ukraine,” Khan said in a statement.

A damaged residential building.
A damaged residential building is seen in Kyiv [Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Zelenskyy says Russian actions show sanctions not enough

Zelenskyy says continued Russian aggression against his country is evidence that sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West are insufficient.

The Ukrainian president added the world was continuing to observe what was going on in Ukraine from afar.

India’s Modi urges Putin to end Ukraine violence

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged Putin to end violence in Ukraine during a phone call between the pair.

Modi “reiterated his long-standing conviction that the differences between Russia and the NATO group can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue,” his office said in a statement.

“[Modi] appealed for an immediate cessation of violence, and called for concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue,” it added.

India has not condemned Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nor imposed sanctions on Moscow. The two countries have had close ties since the days of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine says Russian troops largely stopped from advancing

Zelenskyy says Russia resumed missile strikes at 4 am local time (02:00 GMT), but its troops have been stopped from advancing in most directions.

In a televised speech, the Ukrainian president added the Russian strikes were aimed at both military and civilian targets.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy standing at a podium during a news briefing in Kyiv , Ukraine, February 24, 2022.
Zelenskyy has delivered regular news briefings from Kyiv amid Russia’s invasion [File: Reuters]

Companies shut Ukraine operations

Brewer Carlsberg, Japan Tobacco and a Coca-Cola bottler are among a number of firms who have moved to shut their factories in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, while UPS and FedEx Corp have suspended services in and out of the country.

Many companies with exposure to Russia are waiting for more clarity on Western sanctions and assessing the effects of those already announced.

Denmark’s Carlsberg, which has a a 31 percent share of Ukraine’s beer market, has suspended production at all three of its breweries in the country, while Coca-Cola HBC said it had triggered contingency plans, which included shutting its bottling plant.

Japan Tobacco shut a cigarette plant in Kremenchuck, central Ukraine.

Sirens go off in Lviv city in western Ukraine

Sirens have rung out in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, a Reuters news agency witness said.

The sirens could be heard in videos shared on social media.

Ukraine foreign minister slams ‘horrific’ Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has slammed the “horrific rocket strikes” that shook Kyiv.

“Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv,” he tweeted. “Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany”.

Ukraine central bank bans payments to Russia, Belarus

Ukraine’s central bank has banned payments to entities in Russia and Belarus, as well as operations involving both nations’ currencies, the regulator says.

Russia may retaliate for UK’s Aeroflot ban

Russia reserves the right to respond to the UK’s ban on Aeroflot flights with similar measures, the TASS news agency has cited Russia’s aviation authority as saying.

Missile strike hits border post in southeast Ukraine

A missile strike has hit a Ukrainian border post in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia, killing and wounding some guards, the border guard service says.

The region has no land border with Russia but is located on the coast of the Azov sea which the neighbours share.

INTERACTIVE- How big are Russia and Ukraine

Explosions heard in Kyiv, official says enemy aircraft downed

Ukrainian forces have downed an enemy aircraft over Kyiv, which then crashed into a residential building and set it on fire, Herashchenko has said.

It was unclear whether the aircraft was manned. The adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister wrote on the Telegram messaging service that a nine-storey residential building was on fire.

Day Two of Russian attack on Ukraine: What we know so far

A roundup of key events that took place on the second day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can be found here.

Ukraine envoy to Japan requests more munitions to defend against Russian missiles

Sergiy Korsunsky says his country needs more anti-aircraft munitions to defend against Russian missiles.

The ambassador to Japan adds Ukraine is well defended against tank attacks but needs Stinger missiles and other anti-aircraft supplies to defend against cruise missiles raining down on the country.

Macron says useful to ‘leave path open’ for dialogue with Putin

French President Emmanuel Macron says it is useful to keep alive the chance of dialogue with Putin.

Macron says after a summit of EU leaders that “while condemning, while sanctioning”, it remained useful “to leave this path open so that the day when the conditions can be fulfilled, we can obtain a cessation of hostilities”.

French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel hold a news conference at the end of a special meeting of the European Council [Olivier Hoslet/Reuters]

EU says ‘Putin must and will fail’ as it agrees new sanctions

Putin “must and will fail,” top EU leaders have said as they agreed to new sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying he is trying to bring the continent back to the age of empires and confrontations.

The bloc’s leaders agreed in principle at an emergency overnight summit to impose new economic sanctions, joining the US and others in taking steps such as curbing Russia’s access to technology.

The EU will freeze Russian assets in the bloc and halt its banks’ access to European financial markets as part of what EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described as “the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented”.

EU says sanctions target 70 percent of Russian banking market

EU leaders have agreed to sanctions on Moscow that target 70 percent of the Russian banking market and key state-owned companies, including in defence, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet.

Sean Penn in Ukraine to make documentary on Russian attack

US actor and director Sean Penn is in Kyiv, making a documentary about Russia’s attack, the Ukrainian president’s office has said.

The double Oscar winner was photographed attending a government press conference in Kyiv, and could be seen meeting with Zelenskyy in a video posted to the Ukrainian president’s official Instagram account.

Read more here.

Taiwan says it intends to sanction Russia

Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang has said the island will join democratic countries to put sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine, although he did not give details.

The crisis is being watched closely in Taiwan – which China claims as its own territory – and which has faced increased military pressure by Beijing over the last two years.

Australia imposes more sanctions against Russia, criticises China’s response

Australia has imposed more sanctions against Russia, targeting several of its elite citizens and politicians, and said it was “unacceptable” that China was easing trade restrictions with Moscow at this time.

“We will work along with our partners for a rolling wave of sanctions and continuing to ratchet up that pressure on Russia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during a media conference.

Zelenskyy: 137 Ukrainians killed on first day of attack

Ukraine’s president says 137 civilians and military personnel have been killed in the country on the first day of Russian invasion.

He called them “heroes” in a video address in which he also said 316 people had been wounded.

“They’re killing people and turning peaceful cities into military targets. It’s foul and will never be forgiven,” Zelenskyy said, referring to Russian forces.

Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv
Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuhuyiv near Kharkiv [Aris Messinis/AFP]

Japan will strengthen sanctions against Russia, PM Kishida says

Japan will strengthen sanctions against Russia in three areas, including financial institutions and military equipment exports, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said.

Japan will also do its utmost to limit the economic effects on Japan from the fallout from the Ukraine crisis, he said.

Kyiv residents fear looming Russian advances

Residents in Kyiv have said they are shocked at Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Anna Dovnya, a Kyiv resident, said she “didn’t ever think” the invasion would involve Kyiv after several explosions were heard in Ukraine’s capital.

“Until the very last moment, I didn’t believe it would happen. I thought it might just involve Donetsk and Luhansk, but I didn’t ever think it would involve Kyiv,” she told Al Jazeera.

Another resident, Hayan Babokoy, says “everyone is leaving, everything is shut”.

Oleksandra Shustik urged the “whole world” to stop Russia from advancing. “I hate the country that started this war, I speak as a mother and as a Ukrainian, and I call on the whole world to help us and stop this aggressor.”

Ukrainians take shelter in a metro station after air raid sirens alarm in Kiev
Ukrainians take shelter in a metro station after air raid sirens sound an alarm in Kyiv, Ukraine [Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA]

White House says Putin’s ambitions stretch beyond Ukraine

The White House has said that Putin has grander ambitions than Ukraine, when asked about the Russian leader’s ultimate goals.

New Zealand announces travel bans, trade bans with Russia

New Zealand has imposed targeted travel bans on Russia and prohibited goods trade to its military and security forces.

“The world is speaking and sending a very clear message to Russia that what they have done is wrong and they will face the condemnation of the world,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

More sanctions may follow as the conflict escalates, Ardern said.

White House says Biden briefed US congressional leaders on Ukraine

US President Joe Biden briefed leaders in the US Congress about the crisis in Ukraine in a secure call, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said.

Biden “spent an hour this afternoon on the phone with … Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, briefing them on the situation on a secure call, briefing them on the situation on the ground, answering questions they had as well,” Psaki said.

US, Albania call for UN vote on Friday on resolution condemning Russia

The US and Albania called for a UN Security Council vote on Friday at 20:00 GMT on a draft resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demanding Moscow withdraw its troops, diplomatic sources have said.

The text is doomed to failure because of Russia’s veto power as a permanent member of the council. But for Washington, use of the veto would show Russia’s “isolation”, the sources said.

US still has room to tighten sanctions on Russia, official says

The US still has room to tighten sanctions on Russia if aggression against Ukraine escalates further, a senior administration official has said.

A second senior administration official, speaking to reporters, said other countries were making parallel announcements on export controls and it was expected many more will join in the coming days.

Zelenskyy calls on EU to stop Russian ‘aggressor’

Zelenskyy has called on the leaders of the EU to “stand side by side with Ukraine and stop the aggressor”.

In a statement published on his page in the messaging app Telegram, Ukraine’s leader called for “powerful economic and financial sanctions” on Russia, including cutting it off from international payments network SWIFT and imposing an embargo on oil and gas trade.

“Europe’s fate is being decided in Ukraine: if Putin doesn’t get a decent rebuff now, he will move on further,” Zelenskyy said, adding that the EU could also help Ukraine with weapons and ammunition and support a UN peacekeeping operation.

“Our people are dying for the freedom of Ukraine and Europe,” the statement said. “We have waited for a long time at an open door. We asked about NATO membership and didn’t get a response.”

Red Cross fears ‘massive casualty numbers’ in Ukraine

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could unleash death and destruction on a scale that is “frightening to contemplate”.

“I fear increased suffering, with the potential of massive casualty numbers and extensive destruction of civilian objects like water and electricity plants, as well as mass displacement, trauma, family separation, and missing persons,” Peter Maurer said in a statement.

“The ICRC has seen many conflicts start and escalate in recent years, but too few of them end, and in each one, it is the civilian populations that bear the consequences,” he added.

Ukraine foreign minister speaks to Turkish counterpart

Kuleba has said that he has spoken to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu over the phone.

The pair discussed “practical steps to ensure security in the Black Sea region,” Kuleba said in a Twitter post.

Ukraine has earlier asked Turkey to close the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to Russian ships.

Ukrainian leader signs decree on general mobilisation of population

Zelenskyy has signed a decree on the general mobilisation of the population in the wake of Russia’s invasion, the Interfax Ukraine news agency has said.

Citing a decree on the presidential website, the agency said the mobilisation would be carried out within 90 days of the decree coming into force.

Ukrainian soldiers ride in a military vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine
Ukrainian soldiers ride in a military vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine [Sergei Grits/AP Photo]

Blinken, in call with India, stresses collective condemnation of Russian invasion

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and urged a “strong collective response” to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the State Department has said.

“Secretary Blinken stressed the importance of a strong collective response to condemn Russia’s invasion and call for an immediate withdrawal and ceasefire,” it said in a statement.

Russia SWIFT ban ‘still on table’: EU financial services commissioner

The EU may not decide to cut Russia off from the SWIFT global interbank payments system this evening, but the measure has not been taken off the table as a possible sanction, the bloc’s financial services commissioner has said.

The possibility of cutting Russia from SWIFT “is still on the table. It may not emerge tonight but it is not off the table”, Mairead McGuinness told Ireland’s RTE television.

US Congress to provide $600m for new Ukraine weapons

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said lawmakers want to provide Ukraine with $600m for “lethal defence weapons” to battle Russia’s unfolding attack.

“What we’re doing with Ukraine is making sure that we have humanitarian assistance to help the people; that we have lethal defence weapons going into Ukraine to the tune of $600 million for them to fight their own fight,” Pelosi told reporters in San Francisco.

Russia plans to ‘decapitate’ Ukraine government, US official says

The US believes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is designed to decapitate Ukraine’s government and one of the three main axes of assault is directed at Kyiv, a senior US defence official has said.

“The indications we’ve seen thus far, in just these first, not even 12 hours, are in keeping with our assessment earlier, that would be his goal: to decapitate this government,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said this appeared to be only the first phase of a large-scale Russian invasion that so far has used a limited number of the more than 150,000 Russian troops arrayed around Ukraine.

“We don’t believe he has committed anywhere near a large portion of the forces that he has available to him,” the official said.

New US sanctions to isolate Russia from global economy: Correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, says new US sanctions on Russia, which are being coordinated with European allies, aim to isolate the country from the global economy.

“Any assets that Russia currently holds in the United States are now frozen,” Halkett said.

INTERACTIVE- Conflict at a glance

100,000 Ukrainians believed to be displaced

The UN refugee agency has said an estimated 100,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes and that several thousand have crossed into neighbouring countries, mainly Romania and Moldova.

Russian forces advancing closer to Kyiv: US defence official

Russian forces are making advances on Kyiv and Moscow has continued to flow forces into the country, a senior US defence official has said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Russia had fired more than 160 missiles at Ukrainian targets so far.

US decries Russia’s ‘aggression’, thanks Baltic states

Blinken has condemned Russia’s military operation in Ukraine as “premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified”, the department said in a statement.

Blinken spoke with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, and Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets on Thursday, spokesperson Ned Price said.

“Blinken thanked the Baltic states for their steadfast support of Ukraine and for hosting US and NATO forces. Blinken strongly condemned Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine and emphasised the importance of Allied unity for the strong, swift response to Russia’s aggression,” Price said in a readout of the call.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Read all the updates from Thursday, February 24, here.