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LIVE: Russia - Ukraine Negotiations Have Started in Belarus

  • Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun in Belarus

    Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun in Belarus

Published 26 February 2022

Russian  Central Bank announces easing on loans to borrowers due to sanctions - Biden to discuss common response to Russian military operation in Ukraine with allies - European Union formalizes closure of its airspace to Russian airlines  - Ukraine-Russia Talks To Begin on Monday Morning

Negotiations between delegations of Russia and Ukraine have started in Belarus

EU to discuss Ukraine’s possible accession to organization, says European Council head: 

The EU will address Ukraine’s possible admission to the organization, President of the European Council Charles Michel told the BFM TV channel on Monday.

"This will be discussed anyway," Michel said in reply to the question whether the EU was ready to open its doors to Ukraine. "But we already have a very strong agreement with Kiev, the implementation of which needs to be speeded up. This will reinforce economic and political ties with Ukraine," he pointed out.

Russia activates plans to minimize impact of US and EU sanctions:

The Russian government is activating plans to lessen the impact of economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union over the Ukrainian situation, the Kremlin said.

"We have response plans that have been prepared in advance (...) What is important today are measures that minimise the consequences," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Peskov also said that President Vladimir Putin will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss economic issues in view of the significant changes that have taken place in this area.

Kremlin calls sanctions against Putin absurd:

The decision by several Western countries to introduce sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin is absurd and senseless, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Putin himself "sees it in a rather indifferent way, but, from the point of view of problem-solving, of course, the very fact of imposing sanctions against a head of state is absurd and very foolish," Peskov said. 

5:00 EST:

Highlights of morning report from the Russian Ministry of Defence:

��Russian aviation has gained air supremacy over the entire territory of Ukraine;

��The Russian Ministry of Defence issued an appeal to the residents of Kiev: All civilians in the city can freely leave the capital of Ukraine along the Kiev - Vasylkiv highway. This direction is open and safe;

��Russian forces have taken control of Berdyansk and Enerhodar, protecting and completely controlling the area around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant;

��Armed bands of looters, who received weapons from the authorities, are rampaging through Kiev;

��In total, since the beginning of the operation, the armed forces of the Russian Federation have destroyed 1,114 objects of Ukraine's military infrastructure;

��The LPR troops established control over the settlements of Khvorostyanka, Sukhanovka, Artem;

��DPR troops advanced another 19 km, the new Aidar was taken under control and Volnovakha was blockaded.

EU calls Russian deterrent alert "irresponsible": 

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, described as "irresponsible" the announcement that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered to put Russia's nuclear-armed strategic deterrent forces on alert.

"It is an absolutely irresponsible announcement, which we must all strongly condemn, and it shows that we must take the current situation very seriously (...) We believe that the only possible reaction is firmness. We do not believe that weakness can work," Michel said in an interview with BFMTV.

The head of the European Council insisted on acting calmly and responsibly.

4:00 EST: 

Extraordinary meeting of EU defence ministers convened on Ukraine: 

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has called an extraordinary meeting of EU defence ministers for Monday over the situation in Ukraine.

"Today I am convening the EU defence ministers to discuss the situation on the ground in Ukraine in the light of Russia's unprovoked attack," Borrell posted on his Twitter feed.

UN Human Rights Council to hold urgent debate on the situation in Ukraine:
The UN Human Rights Council voted in favour of holding an urgent debate on the situation in Ukraine, according to the results of the vote.

The debate was supported by 29 states, 13 abstained and five voted against, including Russia, Cuba and Venezuela. 

Ukraine prioritizes ceasefire and troop withdrawal in negotiations with Russia:

Ukraine's main goal in negotiations with Russia is an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops, Vladimir Zelensky's office said.

"The main subject of the negotiations is an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukrainian territory," the presidential statement said on Telegram.

3:00 EST:

UK announces sanctions against Russian Central Bank: 

The UK imposes sanctions against Russia's central bank, the Treasury announced on Monday.

"(...) the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in liaison with the Governor of the Bank of England, today announces the UK Government's intention to take further economic measures in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine targeting the Central Bank of the Russian Federation," it said.

Bank of Russia increases key rate by 10.5 pp to 20%

The board of directors of the Bank of Russia has decided to increase the key rate by 10.5 percentage points to 20% per annum starting February 28. This will support the financial and price stability and protect the savings of citizens from depreciation, the regulator said in a statement on Monday.

This is an all-time high of the key rate. The previous record of 17% was hit in December 2014.

"The Bank of Russia Board of Directors decided to increase the key rate to 20% per annum from 28 February 2022. External conditions for the Russian economy have drastically changed. The increase of the key rate will ensure a rise in deposit rates to levels needed to compensate for the increased depreciation and inflation risks. This is needed to support financial and price stability and protect the savings of citizens from depreciation," the statement said.

Russia takes control of Zaporozhskaya nuclear power plant, says defense ministry: 

Russian military are guarding and controlling the territory of the Zaporozhskaya nuclear power plant, official representative of the Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Monday.

"Russian servicemen are guarding and controlling the area around the Zaporozhskaya nuclear power plant," Konashenkov noted.

According to Russian Defense Ministry’s representative, the workers of the power plant continue servicing facilities, they also control the level of radiation. "The level of radiation is normal," he stated.

1:30 EST:

Ukrainian delegation sent to negotiate with Russia is already in Belarus

The delegation Ukraine sent for negotiations with Russia is already on Belarusian territory, Sputnik Belarus agency reported citing a source close to the organisers of the meeting.

"The Ukrainian delegates are already on the territory of Belarus, near the place where negotiations will take place (...) They are expected to meet this morning with Russian negotiators," the media outlet published on the social network Telegram.

The meeting is expected to take place at the Alexandrovka-Vilcha checkpoint on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border.

00:45 EST: 

Russian  Central Bank announces easing on loans to borrowers due to sanctions: ThThe Central Bank recommended restructuring the debt of borrowers, not imposing penalties and fines on loans if their financial situation worsened due to new sanctions, the regulator said in a statement 

The building of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation in Moscow - RIA Novosti / Maria Devakhina

00:30 EST: 

Biden to discuss common response to Russian military operation in Ukraine with allies: 

President Joe Biden will hold a video conference with US allies and partners on Monday that will focus on Russia's military operation in Ukraine, the White House said.

The videoconference, "to discuss the latest developments regarding Russia's attack on Ukraine and coordinate a common response", is scheduled for 11:15 Washington time (16:15 GMT).

EU commissioner estimates number of displaced Ukrainians at over seven mln

The number of displaced Ukrainians may exceed seven mln, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said at a press conference in Brussels.

"The currently expected number of displaced Ukrainians is over seven million people," he noted, adding: "In the worst-case scenario <...> they will find themselves in an urgent need of humanitarian assistance."

"The European Commission has already mobilized 90 million euros for humanitarian aid," Lenarcic specified.

It would be US ‘golden dream’ to have nuclear weapons in Ukraine — diplomat

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the emergence of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be a "golden dream" for Washington.

"The US deployed its nuclear weapons on the territory of European countries. It’s not France and the UK that have their own nuclear weapons. This is Italy and many other countries that possess the US nuclear weapons but they do not have access to them. The US controls them there. It was a golden dream that it would appear in Ukraine," she said in an interview with Vladimir Solovyov on the Rossiya-1 television channel.

According to Zakharova, this "unbridled and absolutely uncontrolled conduct of the Anglo-Saxon pseudo gurus" will cover not only Russia, but also everyone who will somehow "get in their way". "They didn’t believe us then. That was ten years ago. China is now facing this on all fronts," Zakharova concluded.

23: 30 EST:

EU bans transactions with Russia’s Central Bank - document: 

The European Union has banned transactions related to the management of reserves and assets of Russia’s Central Bank, according to a document published in the Official Journal of the European Union on Monday.

"Transactions related to the management of reserves as well as of assets of the Central Bank of Russia, including transactions with any legal person, entity or body acting on behalf of, or at the direction of, the Central Bank of Russia, are prohibited," the document reads.

However, "the competent authorities may authorize a transaction provided that it is strictly necessary to ensure the financial stability of the Union as a whole or of the member state concerned."

23:00 EST:

European Union formalizes closure of its airspace to Russian airlines: 

The European Union on Monday made official the closure of its airspace to Russian airlines in response to actions that the EU bloc says "destabilize the situation in Ukraine".

"The member states (... ) shall refuse aircraft operated by Russian air carriers, including by code-sharing or capacity reservation agreements, aircraft registered in Russia, and aircraft not registered in Russia but belonging to them, are chartered or otherwise controlled by Russian natural or legal persons, entities or bodies, permission to land on, take off from or fly over the territory of the Union", says the text published in the EU's Official Journal on 28 February 2022.

This paragraph does not apply to emergency landings or emergency overflights.

The competent authorities may also make exemptions for flights carried out for humanitarian purposes.

19:30 EST:

Top Russian UN Diplomat Slams Western Media

Russia's permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, told a meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday that Western media "shamelessly" portrayed attacks by the Ukrainian Armed Forces as the "consequences" of Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

The senior Russian diplomat stressed that Western representatives at Sunday's Security Council meeting "did not find a single word of compassion for the people of Donbass". "After all, it is the houses in Donbass destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and nationalists that the Western media are now shamelessly passing off as consequences of our military operation in Ukraine," he said.

He further stated that Russia's alleged indiscriminate use of force in the neighbouring country and attacks on kindergartens and hospitals are lies and falsehoods. According to Nebenzia, "an information war is currently being waged on social media against Russia". "As there is no evidence of the destruction of civilian infrastructure by the Russian military, Ukrainian attacks and erroneous strikes are presented as such, as well as pictures and videos from Donbass that record only the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists," he said.

19:00 EST:

The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, announced on Sunday that "thanks to the new sanctions, about half of the reserves of the Central Bank of Russia will be frozen".

"More than half or around half of the financial reserves of the Central Bank of Russia will be frozen thanks to this measure. Because they are in the banks of the G7 countries, and this represents, more or less, half of the Russian government's reserves," he said. "They will be frozen, and this will have a strong impact on the Russian financial system," he said.

Referring to the US, Canada and several European countries to disconnect some Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank system, Borrell confirmed the decision, but qualified that the EU cannot completely disconnect the Russian Federation from SWIFT, because the Russian economy is connected to the economies of other countries.

"The financial system of a country that is strongly interlinked with other countries and economies cannot be cut with scissors overnight," he said.

In addition, Russia has been preparing for this eventuality of sanctions, by moving its reserves away from the dollar and investing in euros and Chinese yuan.

18:00 EST:

Ukraine-Russia Talks To Begin on Monday Morning

According to Sputnik, sources close to the organizers said that a Ukrainian delegation that is expected to hold talks with Russia is headed to Belarus via Poland and the meeting is expected to start on Monday morning.

"The talks will be held on Monday morning due to the fact that, fearing for their lives, the Ukrainian delegation did not take the direct route, through Gomel, but will enter [Belarus] through Poland, at the ‘Warsaw Bridge’ checkpoint. They are taking a huge detour," the source said on Sunday.

16:00 EST:

UNSC To Adopt Resolution On Ukraine Crisis

The UN Security Council on Sunday adopted a resolution to convene a special session of the General Assembly on Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

Eleven Security Council members voted in favour of the resolution, Russia voted against and three abstained (including China). The extraordinary meeting is expected to take place within the next 24 hours.

In total, since the founding of the world body, there have been 10 such sessions and it is stipulated in the UN Charter that they will be held "whenever circumstances require". The last time it was held was in 1997 in relation to the Palestinian territories.

15:30 EST:

Sputnik Reports Wave of Cyber Attacks

Sputnik News Agency and the Czech and Polish websites, the internatoinal versions of the media outlet, have been facing DDoS attacks.

According to the media outlet, their website was down for about an hour due to a DDos attack.

These attacks come amid Western sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow's special military operations in Ukraine.

14:30 EST:

Fifa Takes Measures Against Russia Over Conflict in Ukraine

FIFA has decided "unanimously to take the first immediate measures" in response to Russia's special military operation to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine, and in accordance with the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which are:

"No international competitions shall be played on the territory of Russia, and home matches shall be played on neutral territory and without spectators."

"The member association representing Russia shall participate in any competition under the name 'Russian Football Union (RFU)' and not 'Russia'".

"The flag and anthem of Russia shall not be used in matches involving teams from the Russian Football Union."

14:00 EST:

Almost 643 attacks were registered on the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic over the past 11 days. During this period of time, 15 people were killed and 34 more were wounded, the representatives of the republic reported at the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination of the Ceasefire Regime.

"From 17 February 2022 to 27 February 2022 at 21:00, over 11 days of escalation of the armed formations of Ukraine, 643 cases of attacks were recorded," the agency reported. "15 civilians were killed, three of them in the village of Novognatovka, liberated by the People's Militia of the Donetsk People's Republic. 34 civilians received injuries of varying severity, including a child born in 2006. Two people have been wounded in the last day," he said.

13:00 EST:

European Commission Threatens to Block Sputnik and RT

On Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyenshe declared that the EU will be seeking to ban Russian state-owned media in the bloc.

Von der Leyen has slammed Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik for supposedly spreading "their lies " and sowing "division" in the EU.

"In another unprecedented step, we will ban in the EU the Kremlin's media machine. The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin's war and to sow division in our union," she said.

In direct response, the media oulet Sputnik suggested that the EU might as well ban the Internet all together.

"We advise the European Union to not stop at half measures and just ban the Internet outright," responded Sputnik.

12:00 EST:

European Countries Close Their Airspace to Russian Airplanes

Several countries in Europe have closed their airspace to Russian aviation, among them, Germany, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Iceland, while Finland is preparing to do so, the corresponding aviation authorities informed today through a communiqué.

The measure is part of the commitment of these countries to the initiative to block the airspace of the entire European Union to Russian airlines, in response to the military operation deployed by Moscow in Ukraine since last 24th.

Similar decisions were previously applied by the United Kingdom, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Poland, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania and Estonia, in the midst of a group of sanctions against Russia that will impact its economy and that of several airlines.

In response, the Kremlin has stated that it will apply mirror measures to a group of countries, local press reported.

11:30 EST:

Putin To Put Russian Nuclear Deterrence Forces on High Alert

Following the agressive statement made by NATO, Russian Prsident Vladimir Putin has ordered the military to put the nation's nuclear deterrence forces on high alert.

"Top officials of leading NATO nations indulge in making aggressive statements about our country. Therefore, I am ordering the minister of defence and the chief of the general staff to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into special combat duty mode," Putin said in a briefing with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov in Moscow.

The aggresive statement made by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss earlier on Sunday, warn that if Russia's military operation in Ukraine was not halted, it could result in conflict with NATO.

"This long-running conflict is about freedom and democracy in Europe. Because if we don't stop Putin in Ukraine, we are going to see others under threat: the Baltics, Poland, Moldova. And it could end up in a conflict with NATO," Truss announced.

10:00 EST:

Russian and Ukrainian Delegations To Meet in Belarus

The leader of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said that the Ukrainian side agreed to arrive in Belarus on Sunday.

A Ukrainian government delegation is to negotiate with the Russian side in the southeastern Belarusian province of Gomel, the Belarusian National Press Centre reported on Sunday.

Senator Yuri Voskresensky said that after a series of telephone conversations between Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, talks were held with the Kiev side.

The leader of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said that the Ukrainian side had agreed to arrive in Belarus on Sunday for negotiations between the two countries.

6:00 EST:

Belarus to deploy nuclear weapons if Poland or Lithuania do it - Lukashenko: 

Belarus will turn to Russia with a request to return nuclear weapons to it if the United States deploys them in Poland or Lithuania, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko announced on Sunday.

According to Lukashenko, he mentioned this possibility during the conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron. "If the United States, or France … transfer nuclear weapons to Poland, to Lithuania, to our borders, … I will appeal to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to return the weapons that I once gave without any preconditions," Lukashenko said.

5:00 EST:

Gazprom continues supplying gas for transit to Europe via Ukraine as normal: 

Gazprom continues supplying Russian gas for transit to Europe through Ukrainian territory as per normal, Spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov told reporters.

"Gazprom supplies Russian gas for transit to Europe through Ukrainian territory as per normal, in accordance with requests of European consumers - 107.5 mln cubic meters as of February 27," he said. As of Saturday, February 26, 108.1 mln cubic meters were requested.

Strong international coalition formed to support Ukraine - Zelensky: 

A powerful international coalition has been established to support Ukraine, President Vladimir Zelensky said on Sunday.

"We are receiving weapons, medicines, food, money and fuel. A strong international coalition has been formed to support Ukraine," Zelensky said.

He said that Germany plans to deliver 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, while Belgium promised to support the country’s armed forces with 5,000 machine-guns, 5 million cartridges and some 4,000 tons of fuel.

Zelensky also pledged to raise wages of the Ukrainian military.

Russian army blocks Ukraine’s Kherson and Berdyansk, says defense ministry: 

Russian armed forces have blocked the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk, took control over Genichevsk and an airport near Kherson, Chief Spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov said at a briefing on Sunday.

"Over the past day, the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk were completely blocked by the Russian armed forces. The city of Genichevsk and the Kherson airport were also taken under control," the spokesman noted.

4:00 EST:

President Zelensky says he won't go to Belarus for negotiations: The Press Secretary of the President of Ukraine Sergei Nikiforov stressed that the representatives of Kiev will not go to Gomel for negotiations.

"Such a format was indeed discussed. But at the last moment, the Russian negotiators put forward a demand that the Ukrainian army must first lay down their arms..."

According to Nikiforov, Ukraine is ready for negotiations, but is not ready to listen to any preconditions. This also applies to the venue.

3:00 EST:

Russian armed forces eliminate over 900 Ukraine’s military facilities, says ministry: 

"By now Russian Armed forces have eliminated 975 facilities of Ukrainian military infrastructure, among them 23 command points and communication centers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, 3 radar stations, 31 air defense systems S-300, Buk-M1 and Osa, 48 radar locators. Eight combat planes and 7 helicopters, 11 unmanned aerial vehicles, two Tochka-U missile launchers have been shot down," Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Sunday.

Moreover, 223 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 28 jets (on land), 39 multiple-launch rocket systems, 86 field branch artillery weapons and mortar launchers, 143 special tactical vehicle units were eliminated, Konashenkov added.

2:30 EST: 

Russian delegation arrives in Belarus for negotiations with Ukraine: The Russian delegation is in Belarus to begin negotiations with the Ukrainians, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday.

"As agreed, the Russian delegation, comprising representatives of the foreign ministry, the defence ministry and other institutions, including the presidential administration, arrived in Belarus for talks with the Ukrainians," Peskov told reporters. 

Zelensky announces the creation of a foreign volunteer unit: Zelensky announced the formation of a new unit - the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine. It will be made up of foreigners who want to take part in repelling Russian troops.

Russia denounces new attack by Ukrainian nationalist Azov battalion on civilians: 

Ukrainian nationalists from the Azov battalion shelled multiple residential areas in the southern Donetsk town of Mariupol with rocket launchers, killing civilians, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

"Ukrainian nationalists of the Azov battalion attacked with multiple rocket launchers the populated areas of the locality of Sartana, on the outskirts of Mariupol, and the school No. of Mariupol. The shelling left houses destroyed and civilians were killed," said the institution's spokesman, Igor Konashenkov.

The shelling, which took place on Saturday 26, began at 16.00 local time and lasted about 20 minutes.

1:15 EST:

Russian troops have entered Kharkov: Russian troops managed to break through to Kharkov,

This was announced via Telegram by the head of the Regional State Administration Oleg Sinegubov.

"There was a breakthrough of light equipment of the Russian enemy in Kharkiv. Including the central part of the city. Attention! Do not leave the places of shelter! The Armed Forces of Ukraine are liquidating the enemy. We ask the civilian population not to take to the streets of the city," he wrote.

"Please, stay at home. The situation in the city is very tense," Mayor Igor Terekhov said.

12:45 EST:

LPR says blast at its oil storage facility caused by strike of Ukrainian Tochka-U missile: A blast and subsequent ignition of 200 tonnes of diesel fuel took place at an oil storage facility in Rovenki on Saturday evening. The administration evacuated residents of a nearby residential district

12:30 EST: 

Donetsk denounces further Ukrainian shelling of populated areas: 

Ukrainian troops hit the locality of Panteleymonovka with mortar fire on Sunday morning, reported the Donetsk delegation to the Joint Ceasefire Centre.

The entity specified that the Ukrainian forces launched six 122 mm calibre shells banned by the Minsk Agreements.

The Ukrainian attack on the populated area took place at about 6.50 local time (03.50 GMT).

23:30 EST:

SWIFT prepares to disconnect certain Russian banks from payments system, media say: 

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift) said it is preparing to comply with Europe's decision to disconnect certain Russian banks from the payments system.

"We are cooperating with the European authorities to learn the details of the entities that will be subject to the new measures and we are preparing to comply with the legal instructions," the Swift statement quoted by NBC said.

On Sunday, the German cabinet said that all Russian banks sanctioned by the international community because of Russia's military operation in Ukraine will be disconnected from the international payment system.

23:00 EST:

Cuba urges security and sovereignty: Cuba considers that the draft resolution on the situation in Ukraine, which will be presented to the UN General Assembly, will not be a real contribution to the solutions to the current crisis, where solutions that guarantee the security and sovereignty of all must be sought.

"It is an unbalanced text, which does not take into account the legitimate concerns of all parties involved. Nor does it recognize the responsibility of those who instigated or deployed aggressive actions that precipitated the escalation of this conflict," reads a statement issued by the Cuban government on Saturday.

According to the note published on the Cuban Foreign Ministry's website, it was a mistake to ignore for decades Russia's well-founded demands for security guarantees and to assume that the country would remain defenseless in the face of a direct threat to its national security.

"Russia has the right to defend itself. Peace cannot be achieved by encircling or corralling states," he stressed.

Australia to send arms to Ukraine through NATO partners: Australia will supply arms to Ukraine through NATO partners, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"We already provide significant support by sending non-lethal assistance, but I have just spoken to the Minister for Defence and we will be looking to provide as much lethal support as possible through our NATO partners, particularly the US and the UK," Morrison was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

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