Ukraine says it was ready to negotiate with Moscow and was sending its representatives to the Belarus border. Russia has put its nuclear deterrence forces on alert, according to President Putin. DW has the latest.
- Putin has ordered nuclear deterrence be put on alert
- Ukraine agrees to talks at the Belarus border
- The EU will buy weapons for Ukraine to fight Russia
- Russians attack a gas pipeline and oil tanks
This article was last updated at 17:12 UTC
Ukrainian president ‘skeptical’ of talks with Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was willing to “try” talks with Russia but added he is “skeptical” they will lead to a ceasefire.
“I will be honest, as always: I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try,” Zelenskyy said in a video statement.
If there was a “chance” to end war, he should take part in the talks, he added.
EU to buy, send weapons to Ukraine
For the first time in its history, the European Union will purchase weapons for a country under attack, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
She also said EU airspace would be closed to Russia-owned, registered or controlled aircraft, explicitly mentioning that the ban would apply to “the private jets of oligarchs.”
Additionally, von der Leyen announced the 27-member bloc would take steps to stop “the Kremlin’s media machine in the EU” by banning state-owned Russia Today, Sputnik and their subsidiaries.
“We are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe,” she said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the move was aimed at “turning off the tap for Russia’s disinformation in Europe.”
In addition to the measures against Russia, von der Leyen added that the EU agreed to sanction Russia’s ally Belarus, which she called “the other aggressor in this war.”
In a message to the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine, von der Leyen said they would be welcomed with “open arms.”
Germany advises against travel to Russia
The German Foreign Ministry on Sunday advised Germans against traveling to Russia. It also warned people not to travel to the southern Russian areas that border Ukraine.
The Foreign Ministry also noted that travel to and from Russia was increasingly difficult as several countries, including Germany, close their airspace to Russian flights and airlines stop flying to Russian airports.
Two Russian billionaires come out against war
Russian oligarchs Oleg Deripaska and Mikhail Fridman called for an end to the invasion of Ukraine.
Fridman, who was born in western Ukraine, called it a tragedy for both Russia and Ukraine. In a letter to his staff, he wrote that the war was creating divisions between Russians and Ukrainians who he said have been brothers for centuries.
He wrote, “My parents are Ukrainian citizens and live in Lviv, my favorite city.”
Deripaska posed on Telegram a message calling for peace talks “as fast as possible.” On February 21, Deripaska incorrectly surmised there would be no military conflict.
DW analyst says Putin’s order on nuclear alert not clear
Former Russian military officer Konstantin Eggert says he had “trouble discerning” what Putin meant when he said nuclear forces are on higher alert.
“The expression he used to indicate some heightened state of alert does not exist in Russian military manuals,” Eggert, DW’s Russia affairs analyst, told our TV channel.
There are four levels of alert in the Russian military, Eggert explained. Those four levels are: regular, heightened, threat of war and full or complete.
“Nuclear forces are pretty much always on heightened alert,” Eggert noted.
Turkey invokes treaty to limit Russian warships
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said during a live interview on CNN Turk that Turkey would implement the 1936 Montreux Convention, limiting the passage of Russia’s warships through the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus straits.
The Montreux Convention gives Turkey control of the two waterways and permits it to cut off access to warships during wartime or if threatened. The two waterways connect the Mediterranean and Black seas.
Earlier Sunday, NATO member Turkey called the Russian invasion of Ukraine a “war,” a shift that made it possible to block Russia’s battleships.
Zelenskyy says Ukraine delegation ready to start peace talks
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreed to start peace talks with Russia, his office said Sunday.
Following a phone call with Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, Zelenskyy’s office said he is ready to send a delegation to a meeting on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border near the Pripyat River.
The talks would be the first to take place since Russia invaded Ukraine. Zelenskyy’s aides said the talks would be held “without preconditions.”
“We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” Zelenskyy said in a statement.
Belarus leader Lukashenko assured Zelensky that “all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarus territory will remain on the ground during the travel, negotiations and return of the Ukrainian delegation,” according to Kyiv.
Russian nuclear deterrence on high alert
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered that Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces be put on high alert.
“I order the defence minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service,” Putin said in a televised address.
The move comes following a wave of sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that look set to cripple the Russian economy.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to raise the alert level of his nuclear forces “irresponsible.”
Stoltenberg told CNN Sunday, “This is dangerous rhetoric.”
Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the US Army Europe, told DW, “No one should be surprised he would do this.”
Ukraine says it controls Kharkiv after Russian attack
Ukrainian forces said on Sunday afternoon that the city of Kharkiv was still in their hands following an attack earlier in the day by Russian forces.
The city and its surroundings, including a gas pipeline, had been the target of strikes overnight with gunfire and the presence of Russian vehicles reported over the course of the morning.
But later in the day Oleh Sinegubov, the local governor, wrote on Telegram that “Kharkiv is fully under our control,” after claiming that Ukrainian forces had expelled Russian troops during a “clean-up” operation.
UN says more than 360,000 refugees have fled Ukraine
The head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that the number of people who have fled Ukraine has now surpassed 368,000.
The number marks a rapid increase in refugees with the total number doubling in just one day.
Meanwhile, Germany‘s national rail operator has said that it will offer free train journeys for refugees coming from Ukraine.
People carrying Ukrainian passports or ID can travel for free on Deutsche Bahn trains running from several Polish cities to the German city of Frankfurt an der Oder on the Polish border.
The move is being made in conjunction with neighboring countries “at short notice,” but the company plans to expand its capacities in the coming days.
Germany bans Russian planes from air space
Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has announced that Russian planes will be banned from 3 p.m. (1400 UTC) today.
The minister in charge, Volker Wissing, made the decision after numerous other countries closed their air space to Russian aircraft.
Germany joins most Eastern European members of the EU, as well as the UK in taking this step.
Several other countries also followed suit on Sunday, including Italy, Iceland and the Netherlands.
Scholz vows to increase defense spending
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has spoken about the Russian invasion in the Bundestag, saying that the decision to allow the delivery of weapons to Ukraine was the only “response possible to Putin’s aggression.”
“It was Putin who chose this war, not the Russian people, so we must see clearly that this is Putin’s war,” the chancellor reiterated.
Scholz also announced a plan to beef up the German military, pledging €100 billion ($112.7 billion) for the 2022 budget for the armed forces and repeating his promise to reach the 2% of GDP spending on defense in line with NATO demands.
“In attacking Ukraine, Putin doesn’t just want to eradicate a country from the world map, he is destroying the European security structure we have had in place since Helsinki,” Scholz said in his speech to German lawmakers.
Ukraine calls Moscow’s offer of Belarus talks ‘propaganda’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has turned down a Russian offer of peace talks in Belarus on the grounds that the Russian ally has played an integral part in the invasion of Ukraine, acting as a launchpad for Russian troops entering the country from the north.
The Kremlin said on Sunday that it had sent delegates to the Belarusian city of Homel for talks.
“The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
Zelenskyy said that his government was open for talks with the Russians, but that they would have to take place elsewhere, suggesting Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as alternatives.
Moscow said on Saturday that it had recommenced its military operations in Ukraine after Putin allegedly called for a suspension of hostilities to allow for peace talks. However, Ukrainian officials said that during that time frame, Russian strikes continued against Ukrainian cities.
On Sunday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed to state-run media Belta that two Russian rockets had indeed been fired from positions in Belarus. He claimed this was because Ukraine had stationed “two to three rocket divisions on the border” with Belarus.
He rejected claims that Belarusian soldiers had taken part in the invasion. The close ally of Putin also called on Ukraine to sit down for talks with Russia, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.
Russian troops enter Kharkiv
After a night of bombing, Russian troops have entered Ukraine’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, close to the northeastern border with Russia, local government officials reported.
Anton Herashchenko, a Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor, wrote on Telegram that Russian soldiers had been spotted on the city’s streets.
Regional governor Oleh Sinegubov told residents to stay inside, saying Ukrainian forces were battling Russian troops in the city.
“The Russian enemy’s light vehicles have broken into Kharkiv, including the city center,” Sinegubov said. “We ask civilians not to go out.”
Russian forces also said on Sunday morning that they had surrounded the southern city of Kherson and southeastern city of Berdyansk.
“Over the past 24 hours, the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk have been completely blocked by the Russian armed forces,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
Civilian infrastructure targeted during ‘brutal’ night of attacks
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Russian strikes overnight targeted civilian infrastructure.
“The past night in Ukraine was brutal, again shooting, again bombardments of residential areas, civilian infrastructure,” Zelenskyy said in a post shared online.
“Today, there is not a single thing in the country that the occupiers do not consider an acceptable target. They fight against everyone. They fight against all living things; against kindergartens, against residential buildings and even against ambulances,” Zelenskyy said.
Gas pipelines and depots were also hit overnight, leading to dramatic, fiery scenes. Russian gas giant Gazprom said deliveries of gas from Russia to Europe were continuing.
Sunday morning brought reports of air raid sirens and explosions in the capital Kyiv, with unverified videos being shared on social media showing what appear to be residential buildings on fire.
Oil and gas facilities attacked
Ukraine’s nuclear authority said a radioactive waste site outside Kyiv was hit by Russian missiles overnight.
There was no immediate evidence of a radioactive leak, the Ukraine State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate said on Facebook.
“The hit was on the fence. The building and containers are intact,” the service told Interfax.
The service said that once it was safe, inspectors would properly assess the damage.
Russian forces pounded several cities overnight. In the town of Vasylkiv, on the outskirts of Kyiv, the bombardment set an oil depot ablaze.
“The enemy wants to destroy everything,” the town’s mayor, Natalia Balasinovich, said in a social media post.
Authorities have warned residents to close their windows because the burning depot is emitting smoke and toxic fumes.
The State Service of Special Communications said a natural gas pipeline was also blown up in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said a nine-story residential building in the eastern city was also hit by “enemy artillery.”
One person died, and 80 others had to be rescued. Most of the building’s residents had been sheltering in the basement.
Macron tells Lukashenko to kick Russia out
French President Emmanuel Macron urged Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to order Russian troops to leave his country.
In a phone call, Macron told Lukashenko that fraternity between the people of Belarus and Ukraine should lead Belarus to “refuse to be a vassal and an accomplice to Russia in the war against Ukraine,” his office said in a statement.
Russia used Belarus as a springboard for part of its attack on Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Belarusian opposition leader in exile Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya expressed solidarity with Ukraine, telling DW that most people in her home country “don’t support this war.”
Trump condemns Russia’s invasion
In an about-face, former US President Donald Trump has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking at the CPAC conservative gathering in Florida, he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “a brave man” and praised him for “hanging in.”
“The Russian attack on Ukraine is appalling, it’s an outrage and an atrocity that should never have been allowed to occur,” Trump said, adding that it would never have happened had he been president.
The remarks are in sharp contrast to his words earlier in the week when he called Russian President Vladimir Putin “genius” and told donors at his Mar-a-Lago Club that Putin’s moves were “pretty smart.”
On Saturday, Trump again lauded Putin as “smart”
Ukraine envoy praises German decision to send arms
The Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin has welcomed Germany’s decision to supply weapons to Ukraine.
“We are glad that Germany has finally made this 180-degree turn,” Ambassador Andrij Melnyk told Germany’s DPA news agency, calling it a historic step.
The German government said Saturday it would provide Ukrainian forces with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles. Berlin had long held back on sending such weapons due to its long-standing policy of not exporting arms to conflict zones.
“I have always said to my German friends and to the German government that they will not be able to bear the terrible images of the war in Ukraine for long without reacting,” Melnyk said.
“The task now is to get the German weapons systems to the Ukrainian defenders as soon as possible.”
He also called for Germany to play a leading role in putting together “a comprehensive economic rescue plan” for Ukraine.
Russia restricts social media access
Moscow has restricted access to certain social media platforms to try and keep information of the situation in Ukraine from the Russian public, the latest British defense intelligence update suggests.
The update from the Ministry of Defense also said Russian forces were “not making the progress they had planned.”
According to internet monitoring group NetBlock, Twitter was heavily restricted and, in some instances, even blocked in Russia on Saturday.
SpaceX Starlink active in Ukraine
Billionaire Elon Musk says SpaceX has activated its Starlink satellite broadband service in Ukraine.
Internet connectivity in the country has been affected by the Russian invasion.
Starlink beams signals for high-speed internet from space but isn’t yet available worldwide.
Musk wrote on Twitter that his company was sending internet terminals to Ukraine to use the service, though it was unclear how many.
He was responding to Ukraine’s vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, who tweeted, “@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space. Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people!”
Fight for Kyiv intensifies
Air raid sirens could be heard as night fell in Kyiv.
A curfew is in place in the city until Monday. Residents have been seeking shelter in subway stations.
Small numbers of Russian troops were reportedly inside Kyiv, but Britain and the US said the bulk of Russian forces were still 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the city’s center as of Saturday afternoon.
The Reuters news agency cited witnesses inside Kyiv as reporting occasional blasts and gunfire in the city.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said an explosion hit an oil depot south of the capital early on Sunday.
Some Russian banks to be cut off from SWIFT
The allies also agreed to place restrictions on the Russian Central Bank’s international reserves.
“All of these measures will significantly harm Putin’s ability to finance his war and they will have a severely eroding impact on his economy,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
She said Western leaders would continue imposing costs on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
“Putin embarked on a path aiming to destroy Ukraine but what he is also doing in fact is destroying the future of his own,” she added.
Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Saturday
EU foreign ministers said they planned to convene a virtual gathering on Sunday to discuss further assistance for Ukraine and punitive measures towards Russia.
In a move that marks a major change of course for Germany, the Bundeswehr will send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger-class surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion, the government announced.
Kyiv is under curfew until Monday. The mayor, Vitali Klitschko, ordered residents to stay indoors, warning that people outside would be considered “members of sabotage and reconnaissance groups.”
Filippo Grandi, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees, said on Twitter that the number of Ukrainians who have already fled to neighboring countries was now more than 150,000.
Demonstrators in cities across the globe have expressed solidarity with Ukraine, with many expressing anger at Russia’s decision to invade its neighbor.
The Russian owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich, said he is handing over the club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.