- Russian troops have entered Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, where street fighting is now taking place.
- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine is ready for peace talks, but not in Moscow’s preferred venue of Belarus.
- Strikes target Ukrainian oil and gas facilities, igniting a depot near the capital, Kyiv.
- Western powers impose sweeping sanctions on Moscow, move to supply Ukraine with weapons.
Here are all the latest updates:
Lukashenko urges Kyiv to accept Russian offer of talks: Report
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has called on Ukraine’s government to sit down and hold peace talks with Russia so that the country does not lose its statehood, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reports.
Ukraine death toll: What we know so far
Scores of people have reportedly been killed in Ukraine amid Russia’s assault, with fighting widespread across the country.
The United Nations said late on Saturday that it had confirmed at least 64 civilians had been killed, though added it believed the “real figures are considerably higher” because many reports of casualties remain unconfirmed.
Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Liashko had earlier said that 198 Ukrainians, including three children, had been killed.
Read more here.
Situation in Kharkiv ‘very fluid’, but Ukrainian forces fighting ‘fiercely’
Maria Avdeeva, the Kharkiv-based research director for Ukraine’s European Expert Association think-tank, has told Al Jazeera that heavy shelling started in the city late on Saturday and continued throughout the night and early this morning.
“I’ve even heard the [sound] of guns on the streets,” Avdeeva said.
“What we know now is that Russia is entering the city in small groups, on lighter military vehicles, and they are [being] destroyed by the Ukrainian military. Some of the groups were already destroyed, they tried to get close to the city centre and we see many images of the destroyed Russian military vehicles on the streets,” she added.
“The situation is very fluid, the Ukrainian military fights back fiercely, and there are also territorial defence units here as well, and these people will also participate in this fight on the streets.”
Russians intend to use Kharkiv as a ‘rear base’
Local authorities in Kharkiv say some light Russian vehicles have managed to enter the city from its from the northeast, according to Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Dnipro, in central Ukraine.
“It seems the city, from what we understand, is now surrounded from all sides by the Russians and it is difficult for civilians to get out of there,” Abdel-Hamid said.
“Kharkiv is so close to the Russian border, about 40 kilometres (24 miles) from there, and a lot of people that live there are ethnically Russian,” she added.
“There are a lot of commercial links between the two sides and even family links between the two sides, and I think the Russians were quite surprised to see that that city has put up a fight and is resisting.
“The Russians want to use Kharkiv as some sort of a rear base and from there head south, maybe towards here, Dnipro, which is a city that they would like to take.”
Zelenskyy says Ukraine is ready for peace talks, but not in Belarus
Ukraine’s president says his country is ready for peace talks with Russia, but not in Belarus.
Zelenskyy’s remarks came after the Kremlin said its delegation was ready to meet Ukrainian officials in the Belarusian city of Gomel.
Russia had massed tens of thousands of troops in Belarus prior to its invasion of Ukraine, and Kyiv has accused Moscow of using the country as a staging ground for its invasion.
Ukraine says it downed missile launched by Russian bomber flying over Belarus
Ukrainian forces have downed a cruise missile launched by a Russian Tu-22 strategic bomber from the territory of Belarus, Valery Zaluzhny, the chief commander of the armed forces, says.
Russia claims to have besieged two big cities in Ukraine’s south and southeast
Moscow claimed its troops had “entirely” besieged the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and the southeastern city of Berdyansk, as the Russian army pressed on with the invasion of the pro-Western country.
“Over the past 24 hours, the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk have been completely blocked by the Russian armed forces,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
Russian troops enter Ukraine’s Kharkiv: Ukrainian official
Ukrainian forces are battling Russian troops on the streets of Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv, said regional governor Oleh Sinegubov
“The Russian enemy’s light vehicles have broken into Kharkiv, including the city centre,” Sinegubov said. “Ukraine’s armed forces are destroying the enemy. We ask civilians not to go out.”
Videos published by Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection showed several light military vehicles moving along a street and, separately, a burning tank.
China envoy to Ukraine postpones evacuation of citizens
China’s envoy to Ukraine has said current conditions were too unsafe to evacuate citizens.
In a lengthy video message on the embassy’s official WeChat account, Chinese ambassador Fan Xianrong sought to dispel rumours he had left Kyiv and reassure Chinese nationals left stranded in the war-torn country.
“We must wait until it is safe before leaving,” said Fan from his office, seated in front of a Chinese flag and what appeared to be a fold-out camp bed.
SWIFT preparing to comply with curbs on Russian banks
The SWIFT international payments system says it is preparing to implement Western nations’ new measures targeting certain Russian banks in the coming days.
“We are engaging with European authorities to understand the details of the entities that will be subject to the new measures and we are preparing to comply upon legal instruction,” it said in a statement.
Ukraine: Russian troops blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv
Russian troops have blown up a natural gas pipeline in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s state communications service said.
A mushroom-shaped explosion was shown in a video it posted on the Telegram messaging app.
It was not immediately clear how important the pipeline was and whether the blast could disrupt gas shipments outside the city or country. Despite the war, Ukraine continues to ship Russian natural gas to Europe.
Ukraine roads company removing road signs to confuse Russians
A Ukrainian company in charge of building and maintaining roads says it is removing all road signs that could be used by invading Russian forces to find their way around the country.
“The enemy has poor communications, they cannot navigate the terrain,” the company Ukravtodor said in a Facebook update. “Let us help them get straight to hell.”
It posted an edited photo of a standard road sign in which directions to nearby cities have been replaced with profanities.
‘It was hell’: Long lines of Ukrainian refugees at Poland border
The Polish government says more than 115,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed over, most from the main border crossing of Medyka.
Read more here.
Town near Ukraine’s Kyiv hit by missiles, oil terminal on fire
Russian missiles have hit the Ukrainian town of Vasylkiv southwest of Kyiv, setting an oil terminal ablaze, the town’s mayor said in a video posted online.
“The enemy wants to destroy everything around,” said Mayor Natalia Balasinovich.
At least 64 civilians killed in Ukraine: UN
The United Nations says it has confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 people killed, in the fighting in Ukraine, although it believes the “real figures are considerably higher” because many reports of casualties remain to be confirmed.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) relayed the count from the UN human rights office, which has strict verification procedures about the toll from conflict.
OCHA also said damage to civilian infrastructure has deprived hundreds of thousands of people of access to electricity or water, and produced a map of “humanitarian situations” in Ukraine – mostly in northern, eastern and southern Ukraine.
Details of financial sanctions are ‘all that matters’
Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, DC, says the decision by Western allies to cut Russia out of the SWIFT global payment system may affect some European countries.
“When it comes to financial sanctions, the details are really all that matters,” she said. “The key here is how many banks are they going to go after – are they going to go after the truly powerful ones,” Culhane said.
“Cutting some banks off would be very bad for those banks … can they do it so that it’s not so bad for the European economy,” she added.
UK says Russian forces limiting social media access for own people
Britain has said that Russian forces restricted access to a number of social media platforms in an attempt to conceal details about the situation in Ukraine from their own people.
“Russian forces are sustaining casualties and a number of Russian troops have been taken prisoner by Ukrainian forces,” the Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update. “They are suffering from logistical challenges and strong Ukrainian resistance.”
Ukrainian tennis player Yastremska flees to safety in France
Ukrainian tennis star Dayana Yastremska has fled her native country and is now safe in France, the 21-year-old said in a social media post.
Yastremska, who has won three WTA titles and been ranked as high as world number 21, says she and her younger sister left Odesa with help from their parents.
“Tired, but my sister and I are safe!” she posted in an Instagram story, which showed their arrival in Romania en route to France. “Thank you France. Ukraine stay strong. We miss you Home, Mum and Dad.”
UN to launch appeal to fund humanitarian operations in Ukraine
Secretary-General António Guterres has announced that the UN will launch an appeal to fund its humanitarian operations in Ukraine.
A UN spokesperson said Guterres spoke with Zelenskyy over the phone.
“The Secretary-General conveyed to the President the determination of the United Nations to enhance humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine,” the spokesperson said.
SWIFT sanctions seek to block Putin from using reserves for Ukraine attack, US official says
The United States and its allies are “disarming Fortress Russia” with new sanctions that cut off key banks from the SWIFT financial transactions network and target Russia’s central bank, a senior Biden administration official says.
The actions are aimed at preventing Putin from using $630bn in central bank foreign currency reserves in the invasion of Ukraine and to defend a plunging rouble.
“Putin’s government is getting kicked off the international financial system,” the official said.
Ukraine is grateful for financial sanctions imposed on Russia: PM
Ukraine is grateful for the latest round of financial sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and its allies, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said in a Twitter post.
“Thanks to our friends … for the commitment to remove several Russian banks from SWIFT” and for “the paralysis of the assets of the central bank of Russia”, he said.
Grateful for our friends from 🇺🇸🇫🇷🇩🇪🇮🇹🇨🇦🇬🇧 for:
– commitment to removal of several Russian banks from #SWIFT;
– paralysis the assets of #Russia’s central bank;
– prohibition for Russian oligarchs to use their financial assets on Euroatlantic markets.
— Denys Shmyhal (@Denys_Shmyhal) February 26, 2022
PM Johnson says UK and allies have taken decisive action against Russia over SWIFT
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the United Kingdom and its allies had taken “decisive action” to shut Russia out of the global financial system by cutting its banks’ access to the SWIFT international payment system.
“We have taken decisive action tonight with our international partners to shut Russia out of the global financial system, including the important first step of ejecting Russian banks from SWIFT,” Johnson said on Twitter.
“We will keep working together to ensure Putin pays the price for his aggression.”
We have taken decisive action tonight with our international partners to shut Russia out of the global financial system, including the important first step of ejecting Russian banks from SWIFT.
We will keep working together to ensure Putin pays the price for his aggression.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 26, 2022
What is SWIFT?
The EU, along with the US and other Western partners, has announced further sanctions on Russia, including cutting off a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payments system.
Ejecting it from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network would 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.
Russia closes airspace to carriers from Baltics, Slovenia
Russia has closed its airspace to flights operated by carriers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia in tit-for-tat punitive measures.
“Air carriers of these states and/or registered in them are subject to restrictions on flights to destinations on the territory of the Russian Federation, including transit flights through the airspace of the Russian Federation,” the federal air transport agency Rosaviation said.
Germany and Western allies agree cutting Russia out of SWIFT
Germany and its Western allies have agreed to cut Russia out of the SWIFT global payment system, a spokesperson for the German government said, in a third sanctions package aimed at halting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The sanctions, agreed with Canada, France, Italy, the UK, the US and the European Commission, also include limiting the ability of Russia’s central bank to support the rouble.
They will also end the “golden passports” for wealthy Russians and their families, and will target individuals and institutions in Russia and elsewhere that support the war against Ukraine, the spokesperson said.
“The countries stressed their willingness to take further measures should Russia not end its attack on Ukraine and thus on the European peace order,” he added.
Macron asks for withdrawal of Russian troops from Belarus
France’s President Emmanuel Macron has asked his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko to ensure the “withdrawal of Russian troops” from Belarus, the French presidency said.
Macron asked the Belarus leader “to demand as soon as possible the withdrawal of Russian troops from his soil”, and urged him to cooperate with the international community to allow humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people, it said in a statement.
EU announces new Russia sanctions with US and others, including SWIFT
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that the EU, along with the US and other Western partners, plans to impose further sanctions on Russia, including cutting off a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payments system.
UK’s Johnson says pressure building to cut Russia off from SWIFT
Britain’s Johnson says the world should cut Russia off from the SWIFT payments system and that more countries supported such a move.
“What you have seen just today is more countries joining the call of the UK to use SWIFT,” Johnson said. He said more countries had said they would not block cutting Russia off from SWIFT.
“Things are not going all the way, President Putin,” Johnson said of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Greece says 10 nationals killed in Ukraine
Athens says 10 Greek nationals have been killed and six others wounded by Russian bombing near the key southeastern port city of Mariupol in Ukraine.
“Ten innocent civilians of Greek origin [were] killed today by Russian air strikes close to Mariupol. Stop the bombing now!” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a tweet.
The bombing was on the outskirts of the villages of Sartana and Bugas, and one of the injured was a child, Greece’s foreign ministry said.
Russian army ordered to broaden Ukraine advance
The Russian army has been given orders to broaden its offensive in Ukraine “from all directions” after Kyiv refused to hold talks in Belarus, the defence ministry said.
Russian forces have made thrusts into the Ukrainian capital Kyiv before reportedly falling back to the outskirts, facing tough resistance on day three of the invasion.
“After the Ukrainian side rejected the negotiation process, today all units were given orders to develop the advance from all directions in accordance with the operation’s plans,” Russian Army spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
Russian military convoys ‘flooding’ across the border
Al Jazeera’s Rania Dridi, reporting from the city of Volgograd, in southwestern Russia, says military units in the area are being deployed across the border with Ukraine.
“Convoys of Russian military gear continue to flood across the Russia-Ukraine border; armoured gear and vehicle-mounted missiles,” Dridi said. “This scene is repeated elsewhere as other convoys are crossing the border into Ukraine on other roads.”
“The convoys will take part in the ongoing military operations, the fiercest of which is currently raging on the Donbas front,” she added, citing the region in eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists control swaths of territory.
People in Ukraine’s capital take cover as Russians approach
People in Kyiv have sought safety underground as Russian troops closed in and skirmishes flared on the city’s outskirts.
A curfew was set on the city, due to last through Monday morning, with the relative quiet in the capital sporadically broken by gunfire.
Small groups of Russian soldiers were reported inside Kyiv, but the UK and the US said the bulk of Russian forces were 30km (19 miles) from the city’s centre.
Lufthansa halts flights to Russia for a week
German airline Lufthansa has said it will cancel all flights to Russia and will cease using Russian airspace for the coming week, citing the “emerging regulatory situation”.
“Flights that are in Russian airspace will leave it again shortly,” a spokesperson for the company said, adding that the company was in close contact with national and international authorities and would continue to monitor the situation closely.
Berlin to Sydney, a global outpouring of support for Ukraine
In a sea of blue and yellow flags and banners smeared with blood-red handprints, protesters around the world have shown support for Ukraine and called on governments to do more to help Kyiv, punish Russia and avoid a broader conflict.
Several hundred people marched through heavy rain in Sydney, Australia, chanting “Ukraine will prevail”, while protesters in Tokyo, Japan, called for Russia to be expelled from the UN Security Council for the assault on its neighbour.
Protests took place as far afield as Latin America, India, Turkey – but also in Russia, where more than 3,000 people have been detained.
Thousands of people also took to the streets in Europe, with protesters – including many Ukrainians living abroad – in London, Nicosia, Berlin, Athens, Helsinki, Madrid and Milan draping themselves in flags and holding “stop the war” placards.
Read the updates from Saturday here.