Live coverage: Refugee crisis grows from Russia-Ukraine war

Delegations from Kyiv and the Kremlin are meeting near the border between Ukraine and Belarus for peace talks on Monday, one day after Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinSuccession’s Brian Cox at SAG Awards: Russian attack on Ukraine is ‘truly, truly awful’ Five things to know about Ukraine’s President Zelensky US urges citizens in Russia to consider leaving ‘immediately’ MORE ordered his country’s nuclear defense systems be put on higher alert.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday also asked for his nation to be admitted to the European Union as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its fifth day.

Read The Hill’s complete coverage of the latest developments in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine below:

Ukraine foreign minister says nation ‘not ready to surrender or capitulate’

11:50 a.m.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba on Monday said the country will not capitulate to Russia’s demands as delegations from both countries held talks at the Belarus border.

In an interview with CNBC, Kuleba said he wasn’t convinced the talks would be successful. 

“I’m a diplomat, I have to believe in the success of talks, but at the same time my main goal as a diplomat now is to impose more sanctions on Russia, to bring more weapons to Ukraine and to isolate Russia as much as we can in the international arena so I’m focused on this part of diplomacy,” he said.

“We stand not only for ourselves but for the world order as we all know it,” he added.

According to The Associated Press, Ukraine sent its defense minister and other top officials, while the Russian delegation was led by Putin’s adviser on culture.

Kuleba tweeted on Sunday that what is happening now in Ukraine is a “real people’s war.”

“We will not fall. We will not stop or get tired. We are determined to fight back fiercely as long as it is needed to defend our land and our people,” he said on Sunday.


Russian restaurant in DC vandalized

11:42 a.m.

A Russian restaurant in Northwest Washington, D.C. was vandalized twice this weekend after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine sparked condemnation worldwide.

Individuals broke windows and spray-painted “anti-Russian” graffiti on the Russia House building, according to NBC Washington, which cited D.C. police. It is unclear how many vandals may have been involved.

The building was reportedly vandalized on Feb. 25 and 27. Authorities are investigating the possibility of hate bias in the incident.


Calm reported in Kyiv after weekend curfew

11:37 a.m.

The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was calm on Monday morning as authorities relaxed a curfew and permitted residents to go out.

Residents who had been under a curfew since Saturday amid Russia’s invasion patiently waited in lines to enter grocery stores and pharmacies, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Citizens had been encouraged to remain at home during the curfew.

NBC News reported that restrictions are expected to be reimposed around 10 p.m. and remain in effect until around 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

“Neighborhood people gave us all this—old washing machines, tires, roofing, anything they could throw out of their windows—to create this barricade,” 30-year-old Taras Oleksandovych, a volunteer at a checkpoint and member of Ukraine’s new Territorial Defense force, told the Journal.

Peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations began near Ukraine’s border with Belarus on Monday.


Switzerland breaks from policy of neutrality, adopting EU sanctions against Russia

11:12 a.m.

Switzerland will adopt the European Union’s sanctions against Russia, marking a break from its traditional policy of neutrality.

The Swiss government announced on Monday that it would impose financial sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov. Switzerland, a longtime safe haven of Russian assets, also said it would target the assets of certain companies and individuals.

The country will also close its airspace to flights from Russia except for humanitarian, medical or diplomatic purposes. In addition, it will ban entry to people linked to Switzerland with a connection to Putin.

Switzerland has had a ban on imports, exports and investments from Crimea and Sevastopol since 2014, but that policy will also be expanded to the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the government said.

It also said it would deliver rounds of relief supplies for Ukrainians fleeing their country to Poland, a neighboring nation that has taken in thousands of refugees since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.


IOC executive board recommends Olympic ban of Russian, Belarus athletes

10:41 a.m.

The executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday recommended that athletes from Russia and Belarus not be invited or permitted to participate in the Games.

“While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country,” the board’s statement said, adding that it is “a dilemma which cannot be solved.”

The board went on to say that the recommendation came with a “heavy heart.” Its statement also called on organizers of international sports to do “everything in their power to ensure that no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus” even if it is not possible to prevent the participation of those athletes entirely.

FIFA, which is the global governing body of soccer, has prohibited matches in Russia and banned the Russian flag and national anthem in any competition. Russian would instead play under the name “Football Union of Russia (RFU).”


World’s largest plane destroyed in Russian invasion of Ukraine

10:36 a.m.

The Antonov-225 cargo plane, which was the world’s largest plane, was destroyed by Russian forces at an airfield in Gostomel near Kyiv, according to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Kuleba confirmed the news on his Twitter account on Sunday, and said that “Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya’. But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We shall prevail!”


Ukraine’s Zelensky enlists foreign fighters in ‘international legion’

10:12 a.m.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday announced that an “international legion” would be created to enlist non-Ukrainian fighters who want to join the fight against Russia, according to USA Today.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said that thousands of foreign people had offered to enlist and could now do so by reaching out to the Ukrainian embassies in their respective countries, the newspaper noted.

“We already have thousands requests from foreigners, who want to join the resistance to the (Russian) occupiers and protect the world security from Putin regime,” the spokesperson said.

Ukraine has already asked that its own civilians participate in the fight against Russian invasion forces and has barred men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country so that they can assist the military.


EU ready to allow Ukrainians to stay for up to three years

10:01 a.m.

The European Union is preparing to allow Ukrainians fleeing their country amid Russia’s invasion to remain in the EU for up to three years.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said at least 400,000 Ukrainians have entered the bloc thus far, according to Reuters.

“We have to prepare for millions (to arrive in the EU),” Johansson said during a news conference, the news service reported. She added that she hoped the EU’s interior ministers could provide plans for those leaving Ukraine as soon as Thursday.

Johansson was reportedly asked by the ministers to prepare proposals that would invoke the EU temporary protection directive, which is meant to provide protections for displaced people in the bloc for one to three years. The directive was created after the war in the Balkans in the 1990s, but has yet to be used, Reuters noted.

After Russia’s attack, many refugees have escaped to Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, all of which are EU-member states that share a border with Ukraine.


Hungary says it won’t allow weapons bound for Ukraine to cross its territory

9:55 a.m.

Hungary announced on Monday that it will not allow weapons headed to Ukraine to cross its territory in an effort to keep the country safe.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, after meeting with Kosovo Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla, said the country decided to bar lethal weapons bound for Ukraine from crossing its land because “such deliveries might become targets of hostile military action,” according to Reuters. 

“And … we have to ensure the security of Hungary … that we are not getting involved in that war,” he added, according to the news service.

The move will likely block weapons that would have supported forces resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Szijjarto also said Hungary would not dispatch troops or weapons to Ukraine.

Hungarian Defense Minister Tibor Benko announced on Tuesday that the country would send troops close to the Hungarian-Ukrainian border for humanitarian and security purposes.


Japan tightening sanctions on Russia

9:50 a.m.

Japan is tightening its sanctions against Russia roughly four days after Moscow began its invasion of Ukraine.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced in a series of tweets on Monday that Japan “will further strengthen our sanctions in response to the outrage of the invasion of Ukraine,” including restrictions on transactions with the Russian central bank.

The Treasury Department on Monday also announced that it was banning transactions with the Central Bank of Russia.

Kishida also said Japan was levying new sanctions against Belarus, including freezing the assets of President Alexander Lukashenko and other officials and groups in the country, according to The Associated Press. Additionally, the prime minister announced Japan would allow any Ukrainians living in Japan to get a visa extension if they seek one “To more solidly demonstrate our wish for solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”

He said he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before unveiling the new sanctions.

Japan had already sanctioned Russia after President Vladimir Putin ordered a military operation in Ukraine last week. The country had suspended the issuance of visas to specific Russian entities and individuals, placed export controls on certain items, and froze assets held by financial institutions in Russia.


France planning to seize Russians’ assets

9:46 a.m.

France on Monday announced it is preparing to seize assets from Russian officials and business leaders targeted by EU sanctions.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said France is in the process of listing real estate, financial assets, yachts and luxury cars owned by the wealthy Russians close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to The Associated Press

“We will get legal means to seize all these assets,” Le Maire said while speaking at the Elysee presidential palace after a special defense meeting on Ukraine, the AP reported.

He added French authorities are working to identify other Russian individuals who could be added to the EU sanctions due to “their proximity with the Russian leadership.”

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed that France would work with other European countries to send military equipment to Ukraine via a hub in Poland, the AP reported. France will also give humanitarian aid to Ukraine soon.


Russia banning airlines from 36 nations

9:22 a.m.

Russia announced on Monday that it would close its airspace to flights from 36 nations including members of the European Union and Canada after those countries announced that Russian flights would be barred from their skies, according to The Associated Press.

The state aviation agency noted that planes from those countries could only enter Russia’s skies with special permission.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was scheduled to visit the United Nations, but that meeting was canceled due to the closure of the EU’s airspace to Russian flights, the AP noted.

The U.S. Embassy in Russia also issued a security alert on Sunday encouraging Americans to leave the country amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, especially as more countries began to close their airspace.

“An increasing number of airlines are cancelling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines,” the embassy said, adding that “U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available.”


China: Sanctions will make ‘political settlement’ between Ukraine, Russia more difficult

9:17 a.m.

China is condemning Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, arguing that such penalties will make a “political settlement” between Moscow and Kyiv more difficult.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters at a briefing on Monday said Beijing is against “unilateral sanctions that have no basis in international law,” according to The Associated Press. The news service, however, noted that China has imposed sanctions against countries, including Lithuania, because of their viewpoints regarding Taiwan.

He also argued that sanctions will lead to poor economic outcomes while stymying the “political settlement” process.

“Facts have long proven that sanctions could not help solve problems but create new issues,” Wang said, according to the AP. “It will not only result in a lose-lose or multi-lose situation economically, but also disrupt the process of political settlement.”

The U.S and its allies have levied sweeping sanctions against Russia and its top figures, including President Vladimir Putin, since Moscow began its invasion of Ukraine last week.


800 arrested as Belarus votes to ditch non-nuclear status

9:00 a.m.

Roughly 800 people were reportedly arrested during protests in Belarus after the country abandoned its non-nuclear status in a referendum.

Official data showed that the vote passed by 65 percent, allowing for the possibility of nuclear weapons in Belarus for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to Reuters.

In videos posted to social media, dozens of people could be seen at Belarusian polling places chanting, “No to war,” the news service reported.

The vote sparked mass protests in the streets despite President Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on dissenters.

On Sunday, Lukashenko threatened to return nuclear weapons to Belarus should the West place them in neighboring countries, the news service added.

“If you (the West) transfer nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, to our borders, then I will turn to Putin to return the nuclear weapons that I gave away without any conditions,” the president said.

Belarus served as a staging ground for the Russian invasion of Ukraine and peace talks are occurring on its border with Ukraine on Monday.


Kremlin knocks EU’s ‘hostile’ measures

8:53 a.m.

The Kremlin on Monday knocked the European Union’s “hostile” measures after the bloc announced that it was funding weapons and equipment deliveries to Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at a news briefing that the EU was “taking an unfriendly position” toward Russia and “taking measures that are not friendly, but hostile towards us,” according to Reuters.

He also argued that the latest moves from the bloc confirmed that Moscow was correct in launching a military operation against Ukraine.

“This, once again, confirms that Russia was right about the measures that are being taken in order to ensure the demilitarization of the country,” Peskov reportedly said.

The comments come after EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Twitter Sunday that the bloc would be financing the purchase and delivery of weapons to Ukraine. She noted that it marked the first time the union had made such a move.

Peskov on Monday said weapons sent to Ukraine would become “an extremely dangerous and destabilizing factor” that could cause dangerous long-term consequences rather than bring stability back to the region, according to Reuters.


Airbnb offering free, short-term housing to Ukraine refugees

8:37 a.m.

Airbnb announced on Monday that it would offer free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.

The company said that the refugees’ stays would be funded by Airbnb, Inc., donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund, and through hosts on the site.

Company leaders and co-founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk wrote to European leaders in Poland, Germany, Hungary and Romania to offer support to refugees arriving in their countries.

“While Airbnb.org is committing to facilitate short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine, it will work closely with governments to best support the specific needs in each country, including by providing longer-term stays,” the company’s announcement said.

The announcement comes on the same day that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi estimated in a tweet that over 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries amid the Russian invasion.


Russia has fired 350+ missiles at Ukraine targets, US defense official says

8:25 a.m.

Russia has fired upward of 350 missiles at Ukrainian targets since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine started on Thursday, a U.S. defense official told Reuters.

Some of the missiles have struck civilian infrastructure, the news service reported.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said a missile struck an apartment building near the Zhuliany airport on Saturday, according to Al Jazeera.

The new total is a large increase from Thursday, when a senior Defense Department official told reporters that the Kremlin launched “in total more than 160 missiles for airstrikes” from both group- and naval-based platforms. The official said most of the projectiles were short-range ballistic missiles, but noted that the airstrikes included “a mix of medium-range as well as cruise missiles.”


More than 500K refugees have fled Ukraine: UN

8:19 a.m.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi announced in a tweet on Monday that more than 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, long lines of cars and buses were seen at the borders of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova. Other refugees traveled on foot to neighboring countries.

Shabia Mantoo, a UNHCR spokeswoman, told The Associated Press that the latest count included approximately 281,000 Ukrainian refugees in Poland, more than 84,500 in Hungary, roughly 36,400 in Moldova, over 32,500 in Romania and about 30,000 in Slovakia.

A great majority of refugees are likely women and children, as Ukraine has barred men between the ages of 18 to 60 from leaving the country to have them available to fight in the military.


Russian military says nuclear deterrent forces on high alert after Putin order

8:07 a.m.

Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces are on high alert after President Vladimir Putin’s order on Sunday, according to the country’s military.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that all Russian nuclear forces, including the Strategic Missile Forces that manage land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Northern and Pacific Fleets that includes submarine-dispatched intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the long-range aviation that is armed with nuclear-capable strategic bombers, were put on high alert, according to The Associated Press.

Shoigu also said that more personnel were added to command posts,  the AP noted.

Putin on Sunday ordered his nation’s nuclear defense system to be put on high alert, pointing to what he called “aggressive statements” regarding Russia from top officials in NATO countries.

The AP reported that it is not clear what putting the nuclear forces on high alert entails, but noted that the order has heightened concerns that the Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine could result in higher and more dangerous tensions.


Belarus expected to send troops into Ukraine, US official says

7:52 a.m.

Belarus is expected to send troops into Ukraine, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official.

The unidentified source told The Associated Press that Belarusian troops are expected to join Russian forces in Ukraine as soon as Monday.

Belarus has been supporting Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, the AP noted, though the country has not directly involved itself in the unfolding situation.

The Ukrainian State Border Guard Service announced early Thursday morning, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military operation in Ukraine, that Russian troops had attacked Ukraine from Belarus. Additionally, Russia and Belarus extended their military drills days before the invasion, which further heightened fears that Moscow was preparing to invade Ukraine.

News of Belarusian troops likely being sent to Russia came the same day that Ukrainian and Russian officials met for peace talks on the border of Ukraine and Belarus.


State Department closes embassy in Belarus, allows US diplomats to leave Russia

7:50 a.m.

The State Department said Monday it has suspended operations at its embassy in Belarus and authorized U.S. diplomats at the embassy in Russia to leave voluntarily.

The move came as tensions rose over Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.

“We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenLive coverage: Ukraine says 352 civilians dead amid Russian invasion North Korea launches suspected missile in 8th test this year Ukraine’s real-life challenge for democracy MORE said in a statement Monday morning.


US imposes sanctions on Russian central bank

7:45 a.m.

The Treasury Department on Monday banned transactions with the Central Bank of Russia and the Russian foreign investment fund, imposing strict financial sanctions on a Russian economy already in free fall.

The new penalties effectively cut the Russian central bank from the U.S. dollar and severely limit Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ability to dampen the blow of previous sanctions.


Ceasefire talks begin between Ukraine, Russian officials

7:33 a.m.

Ceasefire talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials began on Monday, several days into an invasion launched by Moscow that is still unfolding.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters in a text message that the ceasefire talks, which are taking place on the Belarusian border, had started.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office previously said that Kyiv had the goal of reaching a ceasefire and compelling Russian forces to leave Ukraine.


Zelensky calls for Ukraine to be given immediate EU membership

6:57 a.m.

President Volodymyr Zelensky is asking for Ukraine to be admitted to the European Union as his country fights off Russian forces amid a full-scale invasion.

“Our goal is to be together with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be on an equal footing,” Zelensky said during a video address, according to the New York Times.

“I’m sure it’s fair,” he added. “I’m sure it’s possible.”


Ruble plummets as sanctions bite, sending Russians to banks

6:53 a.m.

MOSCOW (AP) — Ordinary Russians faced the prospect of higher prices and crimped foreign travel as Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine sent the ruble plummeting, leading uneasy people to line up at banks and ATMs on Monday in a country that has seen more than one currency disaster in the post-Soviet era.

The Russian currency plunged about 30 percent against the U.S. dollar Monday after Western nations announced moves to block some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system and to restrict Russia’s use of its massive foreign currency reserves. The exchange rate later recovered ground after swift action by Russia’s central bank.

People wary that sanctions would deal a crippling blow to the economy have been flocking to banks and ATMs for days, with reports in social media of long lines and machines running out.


UN: 500,000+ people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded

6:50 a.m.

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that more than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country last week.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi gave the estimate in a tweet.

The latest and still growing count had 281,000 people entering Poland, more than 84,500 in Hungary, about 36,400 in Moldova, over 32,500 in Romania and about 30,000 in Slovakia, UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said.

The rest were scattered in unidentified other countries, she said.


Ukraine slows Russian advance under shadow of nuclear threat

6:48 a.m.

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Outgunned but determined Ukrainian troops slowed Russia’s advance and held onto the capital and other key cities — at least for now. In the face of stiff resistance and devastating sanctions, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear forces put on high alert, threatening to elevate the war to a terrifying new level.

Explosions and gunfire that have disrupted life since the invasion began last week appeared to subside around Kyiv overnight, as Ukrainian and Russian delegations met Monday on Ukraine’s border with Belarus. It’s unclear what, if anything, those talks would yield.


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