GENEVA — The United Nations says it has confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 people killed, in the fighting in Ukraine that erupted since Russia’s invasion on Thursday — though it believed the “real figures are considerably higher” because many reports of casualties remain to be confirmed.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs relayed the count late Saturday from the U.N. human rights office, which has strict methodologies and verification procedures about the toll from conflict.

OCHA also said damage to civilian infrastructure has deprived hundreds of thousands of people of access to electricity or water, and produced a map of “humanitarian situations” in Ukraine — mostly in northern, eastern and southern Ukraine.

The human rights office had reported early Friday an initial count by its staffers of at least 127 civilian casualties – 25 people killed and 102 injured – mostly from shelling and airstrikes.

ICRC asked to repatriate bodies of soldiers

UNITED NATIONS — The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is aware of requests by Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador and others to repatriate the bodies of Russian soldiers killed in action in Ukraine but has no numbers.


Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted Saturday that Ukraine has appealed to the ICRC “to facilitate repatriation of thousands of bodies of Russian soldiers” killed during its invasion of Ukraine. An accompanying chart claimed 3,500 Russian troops have been killed.

Kyslytsya tweeted that parents in Russia should have a chance “to bury them with dignity.” “Don’t let (Russian President Vladimir) Putin hide scale of tragedy,” he urged.

Laetitia Courtois, ICRC’s permanent observer to the United Nations told The Associated Press Saturday night that the current security situation “is a primary concern and a limitation for our teams on the ground” and “we therefore cannot confirm numbers or other details.”

She said “the ICRC can act as a neutral intermediary” on the return of bodies and other humanitarian issues in conflict, including clarifying the fate of missing persons, reuniting families, and advocating for the protection of detainees “within its possibilities.”

Russian forces blow up gas pipeline in Kharkiv

KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian president’s office said Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.


The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection warned that the explosion, which it said looked like a mushroom cloud, could cause an “environmental catastrophe” and advised residents to cover their windows with damp cloth or gauze and to drink plenty of fluids.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, said the Russian forces have been unable to take Kharkiv, where a fierce battle is underway.

The city of 1.5 million is located 25 miles from the Russian border.

Read more here.

Russia closes airspace to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Slovenia

MOSCOW — Russia is closing its airspace to planes from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Slovenia, a move that comes as Moscow’s ties with the West plunge to new lows over its invasion of Ukraine.


Russia’s state aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, announced early Sunday that the measure was taken in retaliation for the four nations closing their airspace for Russian planes.

On Saturday, the agency also reported closing the Russian airspace for planes from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic in response to them doing the same.

Germany considers closing airspace to Russian planes

BERLIN — Germany officials said Saturday that the country is preparing to close its airspace to Russian planes.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing backs such a measure and has ordered all preparations for this to be undertaken, his ministry said on Twitter.

Hours earlier, a German-registered DHL cargo plane made a sharp turn back out of Russian airspace, according to air traffic monitoring website


Report: Ukrainian president asks Swiss president to act as a neutral mediator

GENEVA — A respected Swiss newspaper is reporting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked his Swiss counterpart on Saturday to act as a neutral mediator between Ukraine and Russia, and help work toward a ceasefire between the two countries.

Daily Tages Angeizer said the request of Swiss President Ignazio Cassis came in the context of the upcoming Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva starting on Monday, at which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to attend on Tuesday.

The report, which was not immediately confirmed by the Swiss Foreign Ministry that Cassis also leads, cited Swiss experience with such issues — notably a mediation effort carried out by Switzerland after Russian forces seized control of Crimea in 2014.

Ministry spokesman Andreas Heller told The Associated Press late Saturday that he could not immediately confirm whether any such communication had taken place between the two presidents, but said Switzerland was ready to offer its “good offices” for any such initiative.

U.S., Canada and European leaders vow to cut off some Russian banks


WASHINGTON — The U.S., European Union, and United Kingdom on Saturday agreed to block “selected” Russian banks from the SWIFT global financial messaging system and to impose ”restrictive measures” on its central bank in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.

The measures were announced jointly as part of a new round of financial sanctions meant to impose a severe cost on Russia for the invasion.

In Brussels, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said cutting several commercial banks from SWIFT “will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally.” She said more banks could be hit “as appropriate.”

Von der Leyen said the EU would “commit to taking measures to limit the sale of citizenship — so-called golden passports — that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems.”

Read more here.

Russians speaking out against Ukraine invasion


MOSCOW — More and more Russians spoke out Saturday against the invasion of Ukraine, even as their government’s official rhetoric grew increasingly harsher.

Street protests, albeit small, resumed in the Russian capital of Moscow, the second-largest city of St. Petersburg and other Russian cities for the third straight day, with people taking to the streets despite mass detentions on Thursday and Friday. According to OVD-Info, rights group that tracks political arrests, at least 460 people in 34 cities were detained over anti-war protests on Saturday, including over 200 in Moscow.

Open letters condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine kept pouring, too. More than 6,000 medical workers put their names under one on Saturday; over 3,400 architects and engineers endorsed another while 500 teachers signed a third one. Similar letters by journalists, municipal council members, cultural figures and other professional groups have been making the rounds since Thursday.

A prominent contemporary art museum in Moscow called Garage announced Saturday it was halting its work on exhibitions and postponing them “until the human and political tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine has ceased.”

Read more here.

United Nations Security Council to consider emergency session of General Assembly


UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council will meet Sunday afternoon to hold a procedural vote on a request by Ukraine for an emergency session of the 193-member General Assembly in light of Russia’s invasion of its country.

There are no vetoes on a procedural vote in the council, unlike on resolutions. A procedural vote requires approval from nine of the 15 council members.

Council diplomats said approval is virtually certain, and the emergency meeting of the General Assembly is expected to be held on Monday.

Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted Thursday that he asked General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid to prepare for an emergency meeting in the coming days.

He said the meeting should be held under the so-called “Uniting for Peace” resolution, initiated by the United States and adopted in November 1950 to circumvent vetoes by the Soviet Union during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The resolution gives the General Assembly the power to call emergency meetings to consider matters of international peace and security when the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.


Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution Friday demanding that Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops.

More U.S. military aid to arrive in Ukraine soon

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A $350 million package of additional U.S. military assistance to Ukraine announced Saturday includes “anti-armor, small arms and various munitions, body armor and related equipment,” according to John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

Separately, a senior defense official said the assistance includes Javelin anti-tank weapons and that it will be delivered to Ukraine in phases and as soon as possible.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning, said the U.S. has delivered military assistance to Ukraine by unspecified means as recently as “the last couple of days,” and that ground routes for delivery of the additional material “would certainly be on the list of options we would consider.”

Read the rest of the story here.


Germany to send weapons, supplies to Ukraine

BERLIN — In a significant shift, the German government said Saturday it will send weapons and other supplies directly to Ukraine and supports some restrictions of the SWIFT global banking system for Russia.

Germany’s chancellery announced it will send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine “as quickly as possible.”

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point. It threatens our entire post-war order,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement. “In this situation, it is our duty to help Ukraine, to the best of our ability, to defend itself against Vladimir Putin’s invading army.”

In addition, the German economy and climate ministry said Germany is allowing the Netherlands to ship 400 German-made anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

Germany had long stuck to a policy of not exporting deadly weapons to conflict zones, including Ukraine. As recently as Friday, government officials said they would abide by that policy.


The country has faced criticism from Ukrainian officials and other allies that it has not acted decisively enough to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion. Previously, Germany contributed 5,000 helmets to Ukraine’s defense.

In addition, Germany will send 14 armored vehicles and up to 10,000 tons of fuel to Ukraine.

Pope Francis makes call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

ROME — The Ukrainian Embassy to the Holy See says Pope Francis spoke by phone on Saturday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The embassy tweeted that “the Holy Father expressed his deepest pain for the tragic events that are taking place in our country.”

Zelenskyy tweeted that he thanked the pontiff for “praying for peace in Ukraine and a ceasefire. The Ukrainian people feel the spiritual support of His Holiness.”


The pope, who has repeatedly called war folly, has designated March 2, Ash Wednesday, as a day of fasting and prayer for peace.

U.S. considers sanctions on Russian Central Bank

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is weighing sanctioning the Russian Central Bank, a move aimed at targeting more than $600 billion in reserves that the Kremlin has at its disposal, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The White House hasn’t made a final decision on the move, the officials said. The step could cause broad economic impact to the Russian economy, but also have reverberations in the broader global economy.

The White House declined to comment on the report.

Long lines at border crossings


MEDYKA, POLAND — Lines of vehicles miles long are clogging border crossings out of Ukraine, as tens of thousands rush to neighboring countries to escape danger from invading Russian troops.

Nearly 120,000 people have so far fled Ukraine into Poland and other neighboring countries in the wake of Russian invasion, the U.N. refugee agency said Saturday. The largest numbers were arriving in Poland, where 2 million Ukrainians have already settled to work in recent years. Poland’s government said Saturday that more than 100,000 Ukrainians had crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border in the past 48 hours alone.

One family from Chernivtsi in western Ukraine waited 20 hours before being able to cross the border into Siret in northern Romania.

At the border town of Medyka, the line of vehicles waiting to enter Poland stretched many miles into Ukraine. A woman from Lviv, who was bringing her four children to safety in Poland, described toys and bags along the way that were so heavy that people abandoned them.

Read the rest of the story here.

Chelsea FC owner turns team over to trustees


LONDON — Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich suddenly handed over the “stewardship and care” of the Premier League club to its charitable foundation trustees on Saturday.

The move came after a member of the British parliament called for the Russian billionaire to hand over the club in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, made no mention of the war in his statement.

Read the rest of the story here.

Defense official: More than half of Russian combat troops from border have entered Ukraine

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A senior U.S. defense official says the United States estimates that more than 50 percent of Russian combat power arrayed along Ukraine’s borders has entered Ukraine. That is up from a U.S. estimate Friday that one-third of the Russian force had been committed to the fight.


The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. assessments, would not say how many Russian troops that amounts to inside Ukraine, but the U.S. had estimated the total Russian force arrayed near Ukraine at more than 150,000.

The official said advancing Russian forces were roughly 30 kilometers outside Kyiv as of Saturday, and that an unspecified number of Russian military “reconnaissance elements” had entered the capital.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that “the speed of the Russian advance has temporarily slowed likely as a result of acute logistical difficulties and strong Ukrainian resistance.”

“Russian forces are bypassing major Ukrainian population centres while leaving forces to encircle and isolate them,” the ministry said.

Hungarian president says they are accepting all refugees

BEREGSURANY, Hungary — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told a news conference in the border town of Beregsurany that Hungary is accepting all citizens and legal residents of Ukraine, regardless of whether they are subject to military conscription into the Ukrainian armed forces.


“We’re letting everyone in,” Orban said. “I’ve seen people who have no travel documents, but we’re providing them too with travel documents. And we’re also allowing in those who have arrived from third countries after the proper screening.”

Several thousand refugees fleeing Ukraine have crossed into Hungary in recent days, entering through five border crossings along Hungary’s 85-mile border with Ukraine.

Hungary under Orban has in recent years firmly opposed all forms of immigration.

Regarded as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the European Union, Orban has pursued close economic and diplomatic ties with the Kremlin. But he said that Russia’s invasion of Hungary’s neighbor would likely cause changes in his relationship with Putin, and that Hungary was supporting all proposed sanctions against Moscow at the European level.

Slovakia says NATO troops could be deployed

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s defense minister says up to 1,200 foreign troops from other NATO members could be deployed in his country in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


The plan is part of the NATO initiative to reassure member countries on the alliance’s eastern flank by sending forces to help protect them. Slovakia borders Ukraine.

Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said forces from the Netherlands and Germany are among those expected to come. Germany will also provide the Patriot system to boost Slovakia’s air defense.

The country’s government and Parliament have not yet approved the plan.

Nad also sadi his country’s government has approved sending arms and fuel worth 11 million euros ($12.4 million) requested by Ukraine. The aid will include 10 million liters (2.6 million gallons) of fuel, 2.4 million liters (630,000 gallons) of aviation fuel and 12,000 pieces of ammunition.

Ukrainians worldwide demonstrate solidarity

TOKYO — From Tokyo to London to Taipei, Ukrainians living abroad and hundreds of protesters have turned out on the streets to join anti-war rallies spreading around the world as Russia’s troops pressed toward Ukraine’s capital.


Several hundred Ukrainians living in Japan gathered outside of Tokyo’s main train stations Saturday, chanting “Stop war!” and “Peace for Ukraine.” They held up signs including “No war,” “Stop Putin, Stop Russia,” while others waved Ukrainian flags. At a separate rally reportedly organized by Russian residents in Japan, several dozen people chanted “Hands off Ukraine!”

In Taiwan, more than 100 demonstrators chanting “Stand with Ukraine” and “Glory to Ukraine” protested outside the Russian representative office in Taiwan on Saturday.

“My family, my friends are now sheltered in their basements because of the air attacks,” said Yulia Kolorova, a 49-year-old Ukrainian living in Taiwan. “I just want them to be strong. I just can’t imagine how scary it is to see the missiles over your head. It’s surreal.”

Kyiv mayor Klitschko extends curfew

KYIV, UKRAINE — The mayor of the Ukrainian capital is imposing an intensified curfew as Russian troops press on the city.

Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said on Telegram that the curfew will extend from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. and “all civilians on the street during the curfew will be considered members of the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups.”


The previous curfew imposed two days ago was from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.

French marines intercept Russian cargo ship

PARIS — French officials say marines patrolling the English Channel area have intercepted a cargo ship sailing under the Russian flag and escorted it to the port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer for an investigation.

The interception of the ship, carrying cars, early Saturday was triggered by financial sanctions levied days ago against Russia for its invasion of the Ukraine. Maritime spokesperson Veronique Magnin said it appeared to be the first such action in the English Channel.

The approximately 427-foot ship was headed from Rouen, in Normandy, to Saint Petersburg, and was stopped near Honfleur, Magnin said.

Customs officials carrying out the investigation were verifying if the vessel is indeed linked to Russian financial interests, the spokesperson said. The process could take up to 48 hours.


The French government has given maritime officials the power to intercept vessels suspected of contravening the sanctions, she said.

Zelensky addresses nation, says Kyiv still stands

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says his country’s armed forces are successfully fighting back against Russian troops.

Zelensky said in a video released Saturday that Russian attempts to forge into Kyiv have been repelled and Moscow’s plan to quickly seize the capital and install a puppet government has been thwarted. In an emotional speech, he accused the Russian forces of hitting civilian areas and infrastructure.

Zelensky pushed for Ukraine’s urgent ascension to the European Union, saying he discussed the issue with the EU leaders. He also urged cutting Russia from the SWIFT international electronic bank payment system, noting that Germany and Hungary should show “courage” and agree to the move.

Briefly switching to Russian, Zelensky hailed Russia’s cultural figures who denounced the invasion and urged them to redouble efforts to force the Kremlin to halt the attack. He claimed that thousands of Russian troops were killed and hundreds of those who were taken prisoner “can’t understand why they were sent into Ukraine to kill and get killed.” “The sooner you say to your government that this war should be immediately stopped, the more of your people will stay alive,” he said.


Czechs approve plan to send arms to Ukraine

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s government has approved a plan to send more arms to Ukraine.

The Defense Ministry said it is immediately sending machine guns, submachine guns, assault rifles and pistols together with ammunition worth 188 million Czech crowns ($8.6 million).

The ministry said the Czechs will transport the weapons and deliver them to a place determined by the Ukrainian side.

The Czech Republic has already agreed to donate some 4,000 pieces of artillery shells worth 36.6 million Czech crowns ($1.7 million) to Ukraine.

Poland refuses to play World Cup qualifier against Russia


WARSAW, Poland — The Polish Football Association says it will not play its World Cup qualifying match against Russia due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“No more words, time to act!” said association president Cezary Kulesza on Twitter, saying the move was prompted by the “escalation of the aggression.”

The match had been scheduled for March 24.

At least 6 civilians injured in Russian rocket attack

KYIV, Ukraine — A rescue worker says at least six civilians were injured by a rocket that hit a high-rise apartment building on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital.

Petro Prokopov, a firefighter who was taking part in rescue efforts, said the building on the southwestern edge of Kyiv near Zhuliany airport was hit between 16 and 21 floors on Saturday. He said at least six people were injured and apartments on two floors were gutted by fire. Emergency responders have evacuated 80 people.


Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko posted an image showing a gaping hole on one side of the apartment building.

Separately, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said a Russian missile was shot down before dawn Saturday as it headed for the dam of the sprawling water reservoir that serves Kyiv. “If the dam is destroyed, the flooding will cause catastrophic casualties and losses – including flooding of residential areas of Kyiv and its suburbs,” the ministry said.

Russian troops were pressing their attack on the Ukrainian capital, trying to advance on the city from several directions. Russia has repeatedly claimed its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets.

“Let me stress once again that only infrastructure sites of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are being targeted, ruling out damage to residential and social infrastructure,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a briefing Saturday.

The foreign ministry announced early Saturday that ambassador Jennes de Mol and his staff, who had already moved from Kyiv to Lviv before Russia’s invasion, will relocate to Jaroslaw, Poland.

The ministry said the diplomatic post that is helping Dutch citizens who want to leave Ukraine has been moved out of the country because of the deteriorating security situation in Lviv.

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