The crisis has roiled the globe since Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the pre-dawn hours of Moscow on Thursday, announced in a televised address that he was launching a military operation against Ukraine.
International backlash followed swiftly, with sanctions by the United States and a host of other countries. Biden said the new economic measures would “limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen to be part of the global economy.”
But, so far, those sanctions appear to have had little effect on Russia’s attempt to take over the one-time Soviet Republic that has expressed a desire to someday join NATO.
• MOUNTING DEATH TOLL: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that 137 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have been killed with hundreds more wounded.
• WHERE IS THE FIGHTING? Explosions sounded before dawn in Kyiv and gunfire was reported in several areas, as Western leaders scheduled an emergency meeting and Ukraine’s president pleaded for international help to fend off the attack.
• WHERE ARE UKRAINIANS GOING? Poland’s Border Guard says that some 29,000 people were cleared to enter through the country’s land border with neighboring Ukraine on Thursday, the day Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
WHY IS INVASION HAPPENING?:Why is Russia invading Ukraine? Could it be the start of WWIII? Here’s what we know
A NEW COLD WAR?: How historians view Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov announced Friday that the country’s armed forces would receive a 30% salary increase, along with monthly bonuses, while Ukraine is battling a Russian invasion that threatens its survival as a free democracy.
“Together with the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Finance and the relevant parliamentary committee, we managed to find the expected financial resources and raise the salaries of Ukrainian defenders to the national average,” Reznikov said in a statement. “This is only the first step. We continue to work. Glory to Ukraine and its defenders!”
The pay hike will go into effect March 1.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he spoke with President Joe Biden on Friday about strengthening sanctions against Russia and other steps to retaliate for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Strengthening sanctions, concrete defense assistance and an anti-war coalition have just been discussed with @POTUS,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter, thanking the U.S. for its strong support” of Ukraine.
The White House confirmed that Biden spoke with Zelenskky for 40 minutes but provided no other details.
The United States and Europe have already hit Russia with sanctions that will impact multiple sectors of the Russia economy. Ukraine has argued that a tougher economic response is needed and has asked for additional defense assistance.
In response, the European Union agreed Friday to freeze the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov along with other sanctions.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a short video just after midnight local time with other leaders of his country proclaiming their continued defense against the Russian invasion.
His defiance came as Russian troops pushed toward the capital Kyiv, and as questions swirled on social media about whether leaders had begun fleeing.
“We are all here,” said Zelenskyy, who was surrounded by a handful of leaders. “Our military is here, citizens are here. We are all here defending our independence, our state and it will be so further. Glory to our defenders, glory to Ukraine!”
He was joined by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and adviser Mykhailo Podoliak among other officials.
“Glory to heroes!” the men said as the video ended.
– Bart Jansen and Karina Zaiets
The European Union agreed to freeze the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov along with other sanctions, according to Latvia’s foreign minister.
The move is intended to ratchet up financial pressure on Putin to back off Ukraine and would add to other sanctions levied against Moscow from governments including the United States.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said in a tweet on Friday that the EU’s foreign ministers “adopted the 2nd sanctions package” and added that “the asset freeze includes President of Russia and its Foreign Minister.”
He said the EU plans to prepare another package of sanctions.
– Bart Jansen
Russian forces continue to invade Ukraine along three routes, including from the north toward Kyiv, although a senior U.S. Defense Department official said Russian momentum toward Kyiv has slowed in the last 24 hours.
The U.S. official declined to say how many Russian troops were on the ground in Ukraine now, but estimated it was about one third of the combat force that Russia had massed before the attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin had deployed more than 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s border prior to the invasion.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings, told reporters Friday the U.S. had information suggesting that Moscow had expected a faster advance on Ukraine’s capital. The official declined to say how the Pentagon had made that assessment, but Russia has not yet captured any major population centers.
Russia has failed to dominate Ukrainian air space, the official said. Ukraine continues to fly warplanes that are attacking Russian forces. Ukraine also retains missiles for air defense.
In southern Ukraine, the Russians have made an amphibious attack, landing thousands of troops, the official said.
Elsewhere in the south, a battle is being fought for the Kakhovka hyrdo-electric plant that provides energy to Crimea and southern Ukraine. Russia has launched cyberattacks there, the official said.
-Tom Vanden Brook
Ukraine’s foreign minister ramped up the pressure on European leaders on Friday to kick Russia out of the SWIFT financial system in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.
The United States and Europe already have hit Russia with sanctions that will impact multiple sectors of the Russia economy. But some European leaders have been reluctant to boot Russia from SWIFT, a global messaging system connecting thousands of financial institutions around the world.
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took to Twitter to urge those holdouts to reconsider, citing their past statements that a conflict like World War II should never be allowed to happen again.
“To some European leaders who are still hesitant: each year at commemorative events you say ‘Never again,’” he wrote. “The time to prove it is now. Russia is waging a horrific war of aggression in Europe. Here is your ‘never again’ test: BAN RUSSIA FROM SWIFT and kick it out of everywhere.”
Kuleba said he spoke Friday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the need for the U.S. to use its influence to persuade hesitant European leaders to ban Russia from SWIFT.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday Ukraine is fighting Russia “alone,” in an apparent criticism of the U.S. and other western allies, as he pushes for a stronger international response to Russia’s invasion of his country.
“This morning, we are defending our state alone, as we did yesterday,” he said in an address to Ukrainians. “The world’s most powerful forces are watching from afar. Did yesterday’s sanctions convince Russia?”
Biden has vowed that he won’t send U.S. troops to Ukraine to fight Russia, though he has sent American forces to shore up NATO’s eastern flank.
Biden announced a second round of U.S. sanctions announced Thursday, but it did not include the harsh step of cutting Russia from the SWIFT financial system, which connects banks worldwide.
The Kremlin said Friday it is ready to hold talks with Ukrainian officials, but only after Ukrainian forces stand down. The conditional offer came as Russian forces bore down on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to send a delegation to Belarus to meet with Ukrainian officials. This came after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is willing to discuss a non-aligned status for the country, which would essentially mean dropping the country’s bid to join NATO.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine must put down its arms before any talks happen, according to Russia’s state controlled TASS News Agency.
Russian military forces invaded Ukraine at roughly 9:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday (4:30 a.m. on Thursday in Ukraine), using missiles, troops, tanks and aircraft.
The invasion has targeted major cities and military sites, with the attacks coming from all different directions, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Russia has fired more than 100 missiles.
Congress may need to approve at least $10 billion in emergency spending to support Ukraine and for other needs, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Friday.
Coons, a close ally of President Joe Biden who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters his estimate may be on the low side because it doesn’t include what may be a “robust” request from the Pentagon.
“There is strong enthusiasm to provide ongoing resupply and training and whatever other covert and overt support is necessary and appropriate for the Ukrainian resistance,” he said.
Coons, who also heads a subcommittee in charge of humanitarian aid, said he’s confident billions of dollars will be needed to support the likely millions of refugees expected to flee Ukraine for nearby countries.
“It would be a wild guess on my part,” he said, “but I would be supportive of an emergency supplemental of at least $10 billion, perhaps more, to meet these vital national security and humanitarian needs.”
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry urged Kyiv’s residents Friday to stay inside and prepare Molotov cocktails to defend their capital as Russian troops and tanks were on the verge of entering the central part of the city for the first since President Vladimir Putin launched his assault on Ukraine.
“Neutralize the enemy,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry tweeted as Kyiv continued to be hit by apparent Russian airstrikes that have damaged apartment buildings and forced thousands into bomb shelters. Air raid sirens rang out through the night and into the early morning.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is continuing to plead with western leaders to unveil harsher sanctions on the Kremlin, saying “If you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer a powerful assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door.”
Ukraine claims that more than 1,000 Russian troops have already been killed, though British officials have put the Russian death toll at half that.
President Biden on Thursday announced a raft of new sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
But one move the president didn’t announce: kicking Russia out of the SWIFT financial system.
Biden said removing Russia from the international SWIFT financial system is still on the table but that European allies had resisted that step. The SWIFT system shifts money between banks around the world. Removing Russia would block Moscow from most international financial transactions, including profits from oil and gas production that are the lifeblood of Russia’s economy.
Russia’s civil aviation authority has banned U.K. flights to and over Russia in retaliation against the British government’s ban on Aeroflot flights.
Rosaviatsiya said that all flights by the U.K. carriers to Russia as well as transit flights are banned starting Friday.
It said the measure was taken in response to the “unfriendly decisions” by the British authorities who banned flights to the U.K. by the Russian flag carrier Aeroflot as part of sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
– Associated Press
Pope Francis went to the Russian embassy in Rome on Friday to personally express his concern about the war in Ukraine, in an extraordinary papal gesture that has no recent precedent.
Popes usually receive ambassadors and heads of state in the Vatican. For Francis to travel a short distance to the Russian embassy outside the Vatican walls was a sign of his strength of concern about Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Vatican officials said they knew of no such previous papal initiative.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed the pontiff wanted “clearly to express his concern about the war.” Pope Francis was there for just over a half-hour, Bruni said.
Francis has called for dialogue to end the conflict and has urged the faithful to set next Wednesday as a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Ukraine.
But he has refrained from publicly calling out Russia, presumably for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church, with which he is trying to build stronger ties.
Russia has launched a “horrific” rocket strike on Kyiv, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, tweeted Friday.
The capital hasn’t experienced an attack like that since 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded, he said.
“Ukraine defeated that evil and will defeat this one,” Kuleba tweeted. “Stop Putin. Isolate Russia. Severe all ties. Kick Russia out” of everywhere.
— Maureen Groppe
Russian troops appeared to be advancing on Kyiv at the start of the second day of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Amid a fast-moving and difficult-to-verify situation, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry tweeted early Friday that some Russian troops had broken through to several northern districts on the outskirts of the capital. However, Ukraine’s military also said it was resisting the advance on multiple fronts.
The apparent development comes as thousands of civilians spent the night in bomb shelters, typically underground subway stations, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged his citizens to do all they can to resist Russia’s assault. Zelenskyy has vowed to remain in Kyiv with his family and he appealed to Russia for a ceasefire.
Some 137 Ukrainians, a mixture of soldiers and civilians, died in the fighting on Thursday, Zelenskyy said. Britain’s Defense Secretary told his country’s media Friday that Russia has lost about 450 military personnel.
The U.S., Europe and Japan have all unveiled sanctions on key Russian banks, airlines and associates of President Vladimir Putin. Later Friday, NATO leaders will convene an emergency meeting by video link to discuss the deteriorating security situation.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
EU plans more sanctions with ‘massive consequences’
BRUSSELS — A senior European Union official says the 27-nation bloc intends to slap further sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
EU Council president Charles Michel tweeted Friday: “Second wave of sanctions with massive and severe consequences politically agreed last night. Further package under urgent preparation.”
Michel announced the move after a call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Michel said Kyiv “is under continued attack by Russian forces” and called on Russia to immediately stop the violence.
Russia stripped of Champions League final as UEFA shifts match to Paris
LONDON – Russia was stripped of hosting the Champions League final by UEFA on Friday with St. Petersburg replaced by Paris after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The men’s final will still be held on May 28 but now at the 80,000-seat Stade de France after the decision by UEFA’s executive committee.
“UEFA wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to French Republic President Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis,” European football’s governing body said in a statement. “Together with the French government, 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.”
Ukraine president: Russia has marked him ‘target No. 1’
Zelenskyy said Thursday he remains in the Ukraine capital of Kyiv, and intends to stay there, even as Russia has made him its top quarry.
“The enemy has marked me as target No. 1, my family as target No. 2,” Zelenskyy said in an address to Ukrainians. “They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state.”
Asked about Zelenskyy’s safety, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. is in touch with him and are working to provide him support.
– Joey Garrison
Contributing: Associated Press