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Russia declares ceasefire at 10am local time so civilians can flee encircled city of Mariupol

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has accused the West of abandoning millions of his people to their deaths at the hands of Putin’s troops, as Russia increasingly wage a ‘war of terror’ against Ukrainian civilians after attempts to rapidly capture the country failed.

Moscow claims to have stopped firing and opened humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave the strategic port of Mariupol in the south-east and Volnovakha in the country’s east.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukrainian forces, and it is not immediately clear how long the evacuation routes would remain open. If confirmed, the move would be the first breakthrough in allowing civilians to escape the war.

The head of Ukraine’s security council, Oleksiy Danilov, had called on Russia to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women and the elderly to escape the fighting, calling such corridors ‘question No 1’.

Ukraine war: The latest 

  • Fire at Europe’s biggest nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia is put out after Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘nuclear terror’ in shelling the plant. Russian troops later take the reactors 
  • Diplomats from NATO, the EU and G7 will all meet in Europe today to discuss next moves to contain crisis 
  • Russia admits ‘limiting’ access to news websites including the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, independent Russian site Meduza and Germany’s Deutsche Welle, with Facebook blocked
  • Russian lawmakers approve legislation providing up to 15 years in jail for any publication of fake news about the Russian armed forces
  • Thirty-three people are killed as Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools, in the northern city of Chernihiv
  • Russia and Ukraine agree to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from cities
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow’s advance is going ‘according to plan’
  • Senior US Republican senator Lindsey Graham calls for ‘somebody in Russia’ to assassinate Putin
  • Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky calls for direct talks with Putin as the ‘only way to stop the war’
  • Russian forces take the Black Sea port of Kherson as it appears Moscow is trying to cut Ukraine’s access to the sea
  • US and EU offer temporary protection for Ukrainian refugees so far numbering more than 1million
  • Russians pack trains out of the country to Finland, fearful that it is their last chance to escape the impact of swingeing Western sanctions
  • Sanctioned Russian oil giant Lukoil calls for a halt to fighting in Ukraine, one of the first major domestic firms to speak out 
  • Russian tech giant Yandex warns it may default on its debt after it was suspended from trading on New York’s digital stock exchange
  • The China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank suspends business with Russia and Belarus in a sign of their deepening pariah status
  • Ex-Soviet states Georgia and Moldova – which borders Ukraine’s threatened south – apply to join the EU
  • The Beijing Winter Paralympics opens with Russian athletes banned

 

As Russian forces batter strategic locations, Ukraine’s president has lashed out at NATO powers for refusing to impose a no-fly zone over his country, warning that ‘all the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you’.

NATO says a no-fly zone could provoke widespread war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia. But as the United States and other NATO members send weapons for Kyiv and more than 1million refugees spill through the continent, the conflict is already drawing in countries far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

In a bitter and emotional speech late on Friday, Zelensky criticised NATO over the lack of a no-fly zone, saying it will fully untie Russia’s hands as it escalates its air attack.

‘The alliance has given the green light to the bombing of Ukrainian cities and villages,’ he said, warning that ‘the history of Europe will remember this forever’. In a separate video message to anti-war protesters in several European cities, Zelensky continued to appeal for help. ‘If we fall, you will fall,’ he said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had earlier ruled out the possibility of a no-fly zone, saying Western planes would have to shoot down Russian aircraft.

In a warning of a hunger crisis yet to come, the UN World Food Programme says millions of people inside Ukraine, a major global wheat supplier, will need food aid ‘immediately’.

Ukraine’s leader is set to brief US senators on Saturday on a video conference call as US congress considers a request for $10billion in emergency funding for humanitarian aid and security needs.

The UN Security Council will hold an open meeting Monday on the worsening humanitarian situation. The UN estimates that 12million people in Ukraine and 4million fleeing to neighbouring countries in the coming months will need humanitarian aid.

While the vast Russian armoured column threatening Ukraine’s capital remained stalled outside Kyiv, Putin’s military has launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites across the country.

Russian forces did not make significant progress on Friday in their offensive to sever Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, which would deal a severe blow to its economy. There were also no changes in the north and the east, where the Russian offensive has stalled, meeting fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said battles involving airstrikes and artillery continued north-west of Kyiv, and the north-eastern cities of Kharkiv and Okhtyrka came under heavy fire. He said Ukrainian forces were still holding the northern city of Chernihiv and the southern city of Mykolaiv.

Ukrainian artillery also defended Ukraine’s biggest port city, Odesa, from repeated attempts by Russian ships, he said.

More than 840 children have been wounded in the war, and 28 have been killed, according to Ukraine’s government. A total of 331 civilians had been confirmed killed but the true number is probably much higher, the UN human rights office said.

The Reuters/IPSOS survey, conducted online and in English throughout the United States on Thursday and Friday, with 831 adults responding, ups the pressure on  

Joe Biden has dismissed the notion of no-fly zones because of the risk of open conflict between NATO and Russian forces, despite opinion polling showing that a growing number of Americans want the US to take more aggressive actions against the Kremlin.  

The White House on Friday said it was weighing cuts to US imports of Russian oil, though it is proceeding cautiously, concerned about a spike in gasoline prices that would add to already high inflation. 

On Friday, the United States flew B-52 Stratofortress bombers over NATO’s eastern flank above Romania, exercising with the German and Romanian militaries.

The largest strategic bombers in the US Air Force took off from RAF Fairford, a Royal Air Force station in England, and conducted ‘close air support and integration mission training’, according to a statement from US Air Forces in Europe. The B-52s then flew to Romania, where they conducted more close air support training as part of the Bomber Task Force (BTF) missions.   

A B-52 bomber is pictured arriving at RAF Fairford on February 10. On Friday the bombers took off for exercises with Germany and Romania, above Romania

A B-52 bomber is pictured arriving at RAF Fairford on February 10. On Friday the bombers took off for exercises with Germany and Romania, above Romania 

Vladimir Putin is pictured on Friday attending a ceremony of raising the national flag on the 'Marshal Rokossovsky' ferry in northern Russia, via a video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow. On Friday he cut off Facebook and Twitter and forced out independent media

Vladimir Putin is pictured on Friday attending a ceremony of raising the national flag on the ‘Marshal Rokossovsky’ ferry in northern Russia, via a video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow. On Friday he cut off Facebook and Twitter and forced out independent media

Putin on Friday was moving to shut down independent media, forcing the BBC to leave the country and CNN to stop reporting.

He signed into effect new legislation imposing prison terms of up to 15 years for people charged with spreading ‘fake news’ about the military or calling for sanctions against the country.

Russia also cut access to Facebook, Twitter, and several news organizations’ websites, including the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for spreading what it says is false information about its actions in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Friday’s attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar was drawing worldwide condemnation.

The plant was under Russian control by Friday morning, after a tense night of heavy fighting.

Audio from inside the control room in Zaporizhzhia – Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which provided 20 percent of all Ukraine’s electricity – gave a sense of the panic among staff.

Workers could be heard desperately appealing to the Russians to stop shelling, warning them that they were risking a disaster.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has so far not registered any increase in radiation from around the site, but nuclear experts were warning that any shutting down of power to the plant could have dramatic consequences, stopping the cooling infrastructure with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said on Friday in New York: ‘By the grace of God, the world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night.’

Civilians, mostly women and children rush to board any train car that still has any room on it in Irpin on Friday

Civilians, mostly women and children rush to board any train car that still has any room on it in Irpin on Friday

A house in Irpin, west of Kyiv, is pictured on fire on Friday as the town came under heavy Russian bombardment

A house in Irpin, west of Kyiv, is pictured on fire on Friday as the town came under heavy Russian bombardment

A burnt car stands next to the remains of the local house of culture on Friday, following a night air raid in the village of Byshiv, 20 miles west of Kyiv

A burnt car stands next to the remains of the local house of culture on Friday, following a night air raid in the village of Byshiv, 20 miles west of Kyiv

The city of Kharkiv, pictured, has been devastated by the Russian invasion. The city, to the east of Ukraine, has been under near constant bombardment

The city of Kharkiv, pictured, has been devastated by the Russian invasion. The city, to the east of Ukraine, has been under near constant bombardment

And in Ukraine, the situation remained dire with Mariupol, on the Black Sea, still under siege and the residents of Odessa awaiting an expected amphibious attack at any moment.

Kherson, which fell to the Russians on Wednesday, remained the only major city under Russian control on Day 10 of the invasion.

Yet the capital Kyiv was still being attacked nightly, and an ominous convoy of Russian military vehicles which at one point stretched 40 miles long was only 25 miles out of the city center – stalled, for now.

Russia is poised to deploy up to 1,000 more mercenaries to Ukraine, CNN reported, amid stories of Putin’s growing frustration at the Ukrainian resistance and the slow pace of his invasion.

The U.S. has already seen ‘some indications’ that Russian mercenaries may be involved in Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine ‘in some places,’ a senior defense official said earlier this week.

Some 1.2 million people have already fled Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, according to the latest figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, with over half that number pouring into neighboring Poland.

‘Many more are on the move both inside and outside the country,’ the UNHCR said.

‘They are in need of protection and support. As the situation continues to unfold, an estimated 4 million people may flee Ukraine’.

Ukraine’s total population before the invasion was about 44 million.

Russia declares ceasefire at 10am local time so civilians can flee encircled city of Mariupol Source link Russia declares ceasefire at 10am local time so civilians can flee encircled city of Mariupol

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