WASHINGTON — In war, winning quick control of airspace is crucial. Russia’s failure to do so in Ukraine, despite its vast military strength, has been a surprise and may help explain how Ukraine has so far prevented a rout.

The standoff in the sky is among the Russian battle shortcomings, including logistical breakdowns, that have thrown Moscow off stride in its invasion.

Typically, an invading force would seek at the outset to destroy or at least paralyze the target country’s air and missile defenses because dominance of the skies allows ground forces to operate more effectively and with fewer losses. U.S. military officials had assumed that Russia would use its electronic warfare and cyber capabilities to blind and paralyze Ukraine’s air defenses and military communications.

A possible explanation for Russia’s failure to do so is that President Vladimir Putin built his war strategy on an assumption that Ukrainian defenses would easily fold, allowing Russian forces to quickly capture Kyiv, the capital, and crush Ukrainian forces in the east and south without having to achieve air superiority.

If that was the plan, it failed, although at this stage the conflict’s overall trajectory still seems to favor the larger, better equipped invading force. The invasion is less than a week old, and Russia still hasn’t committed to the battle the full force it had assembled on the border. A senior U.S. official said Monday that about one-quarter of the force hasn’t crossed into Ukraine.

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U.S. says it is expelling 12 Russian diplomats for espionage

UNITED NATIONS — The United States announced Monday that it is expelling 12 members of the Russian Mission at the United Nations, accusing them of being “intelligence operatives” engaged in espionage.

The Biden administration’s action came on the fifth day of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, which has sparked condemnation from the United States and dozens of other countries.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said in a statement that the Russian diplomats “have abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”

The mission said the expulsions have been “in development for several months” and are in accordance with the United States’ agreement with the United Nations as host of the 193-member world body.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told The Associated Press, when asked his reaction to the U.S. saying the Russians were engaged in espionage: “They always do. That’s the pretext all the time when they announce somebody persona non grata. That is the only explanation they give.”


Did he expect Russia to reciprocate? “That’s not for me to decide but in the diplomatic practice, that’s a normal thing.,” he said.

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Invasion triggers a cyber free-for-all but no crippling attacks

RICHMOND, Va. — Russia has some of the best hackers in the world, but in the early days of the war in Ukraine, its ability to create mayhem through malware hasn’t had much of a noticeable impact.

Instead, it’s Ukraine that’s marshaled sympathetic volunteer hackers in an unprecedented collective global effort to make the Kremlin pay for making war on its neighbor. It’s a kind of cyber free-for-all that experts say risks escalating a moment already fraught with extraordinary danger after Russian President Vladimir Putin put his nuclear forces on alert.

So far, Ukraine’s internet mostly works, its president still able to rally global support via a smartphone, and its power plants and other critical infrastructure still able to function. The kind of devastating cyberattacks thought likely to accompany a large-scale Russian military invasion haven’t happened.


“It has not played as large a component as some people thought it might and it definitely has not been seen outside of Ukraine to the extent that people feared,” said Michael Daniel, a former White House cybersecurity coordinator. “Of course, that could still change.”

It’s not clear why Russia hasn’t landed a more powerful cyber punch. Russia might have determined that the impact wouldn’t be serious enough — Ukraine’s industrial base is far less digitized than in Western nations, for one. Or Russia might have determined that it couldn’t do serious harm to Ukraine without risking collateral impact outside its borders.

Many cybersecurity experts believe the Kremlin, at least for now, prefers to keep Ukraine’s communications open for the intelligence value.

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Russia blocks media outlets as anti-war sentiment grows

MOSCOW — The websites of several Russian media outlets were hacked Monday, with a message condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine appearing on their main pages, while other media were blocked by the Russian authorities over their coverage of the war.


The interference on media hints at a growing antiwar sentiment among ordinary Russians, even though it’s unknown who was responsible for the hack. It also offers evidence of the relentless efforts by President Vladimir Putin’s government to suppress dissent.

Russia’s state communications and media watchdog Roskomnadzor blocked several Russian and Ukrainian media outlets over their coverage of the invasion of Ukrine.

The Russian magazine The New Times, which has been openly critical of the Kremlin, was blocked for reporting details about Russian military casualties in Ukraine, which the Russian Defense Ministry has not disclosed.

Protests against the invasion have cropped up across Russia for four days now while nearly 1 million people signed an online petition demanding an end to the war. Anti-war demonstrators in Russia have faced mass detentions while authorities have restricted access to social media and threatened to shut down independent news sites.

The state news agency Tass, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, the St. Petersburg news site Fontanka and a number of other media sites were targeted in the hacking attack on Monday. The independent news site Meduza posted screenshots of a message, signed by the Anonymous hacktivist movement and “indifferent journalists in Russia”, that appeared on the main pages of some of the hacked websites.

“Dear citizens. We urge you to stop this madness, don’t send your sons and husbands to die,” the message read. “In several years we will be living like in North Korea. What’s in it for us? So that Putin gets into history textbooks? It’s not our war, lets stop him!”


Access to most websites was restored within an hour after the hack. Tass said in a statement that the message contained “information that has nothing to do with reality.”

In the meantime, an online petition to stop the war in Ukraine launched shortly after the invasion was announced on Thursday has garnered over 1 million signatures, which made it the most widely-supported online petition in Russia in recent years.

Russia suspended from international soccer over Ukraine war

GENEVA  — Russian teams were suspended Monday from all international soccer, including qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup, as Moscow was pushed toward pariah status in sports for its invasion of Ukraine.

World soccer body FIFA and European authority UEFA banned Russian national and clubs teams from their competitions “until further notice.” Russia’s men’s national team had been scheduled to play in World Cup qualifying playoffs in just three weeks’ time.

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” FIFA and UEFA said in a joint statement.


The high-level punishment involving sports and politics — something not seen for decades — came after the International Olympic Committee pushed dozens of sports governing bodies to exclude Russian athletes and officials from international events.

The IOC said this action was needed to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”

Denying Russia a place on the international stage could deliver a financial and psychological blow to the country, along with tarnishing its image as an elite sports powerhouse.

FIFA’s move excluded Russia from the World Cup ahead of qualifying playoff on March 24. Poland already had refused to play its scheduled game against Russia.

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UN’s major bodies both meet on Ukraine


UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine’s ambassador told the world that if his country is crushed, international peace and democracy are in peril, as the United Nations General Assembly held a rare emergency session in a day of frenzied — and sometimes fractious — diplomacy at the U.N. about the five-day-old war.

United Nations Russia Ukraine

Vasily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations, speaks during an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, at United Nations Headquarters. AP Photo/John Minchillo

Ukraine “is paying now the ultimate price for freedom and security of itself and all the world,” Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said at the assembly’s first emergency meeting in decades.

“If Ukraine does not survive … international peace will not survive. If Ukraine does not survive, the United Nations will not survive,” he said. “Have no illusions. If Ukraine does not survive, we cannot be surprised if democracy fails next.”

His pleas came as both the 193-nation General Assembly and the more powerful 15-member Security Council met Monday to discuss the war, and the U.N. Human Rights Council voted in Geneva to hold its own urgent session.

In a sign of the tension permeating the diplomatic discourse, the council meeting opened with the news that the United States was kicking out 12 Russian U.N. diplomats whom Washington accuses of spying.

Meanwhile, Russian and Ukrainian officials held talks on the Belarus border, agreeing only to keep talking.


“The guns are talking now, but the path of dialogue must always remain open,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the assembly. “We need peace now.”

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Space Agency says planned mission with Russia now unlikely

BERLIN — The European Space Agency says the planned launch of a joint mission with Russia to Mars this year is now “very unlikely” due to sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine.

Following a meeting of officials from its 22 member states Monday, the agency said in a statement that it was assessing the consequences of sanctions for its cooperation with Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.

“Regarding the ExoMars program continuation, the sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 very unlikely,” it said.


The launch was already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak and technical problems.

The mission’s goal is to put a lander on the red planet to help determine whether there has ever been life on Mars.

On Saturday, Roscosmos said it was pulling its personnel from the European space port in Kourou, French Guiana.

IOC urges sports organizations to exclude athletes from Russia and Belarus

With pressure intensifying for sports organizations to sanction Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee’s executive board recommended Monday that international federations and organizations “not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials” in competition and to move events from those countries.

The IOC’s executive board said in a statement that it was moving “to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”


If that is not possible because of short notice, the IOC urged organizations 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. Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colors, flags or anthems should be displayed.”

The IOC stopped short of an outright ban, however, and has not suspended either country. That aligns with action taken by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. It has not banned Russia from World Cup competition, but its team will be required to compete as Football Union of Russia. It had been scheduled to host Poland on March 24 in a World Cup qualifying playoff, but Poland and Russia’s next possible opponents, Sweden and the Czech Republic, have said they would refuse to take the field.

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Order of Malta sets up emergency shelter

ROME — The Order of Malta has set up an emergency shelter with 250 field beds for displaced persons in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine.

From its Rome-based headquarters, the charitable order also said field kitchens, a common tent and another tent for “psychosocial support” have been erected, and a medical station was set up in that city’s center.


Some 80 volunteers were deployed. In another city in western Ukraine, Lviv, food for 1,000 people is being distributed at the train station, where people in recent days have been crowding platforms in desperate bids to get a place aboard trains headed to Hungary and Poland.

The sovereign Order of Malta is an ancient lay Catholic religious order that runs hospitals and clinics worldwide.

Arab League won’t demand end to invasion

CAIRO — The Arab League has voiced concerns about the war in Ukraine, but it refrained from demanding an end to the Russian invasion.

The pan-Arab organization says in a communique Monday it supports all ongoing efforts to resolve the crisis “through dialogue and diplomacy.”

The communique comes after a meeting of representatives of the 22-member Arab League in Cairo.


The communique didn’t mention Russia, which has close ties with regional powers like Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Most governments in the Arab regions have avoided criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The UAE, which holds a temporary seat at the U.N. Security Council, has joined China and India in abstaining during a vote on a U.S. resolution condemning the invasion.

Swiss to adopt EU sanctions on Russia

GENEVA — The Swiss president says Russia’s attack on Ukraine is “unacceptable” and Switzerland will adopt European Union sanctions, including asset freezes, targeting Russians – all but depriving well-heeled Russians of access to one of their favorite havens to park their money.

APTOPIX Poland Ukraine Invasion

Refugees from Ukraine arrive to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland. AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

Ignazio Cassis told a news conference Monday that Russia’s invasion was intolerable on moral and political grounds. Switzerland’s government has been trying to balance its condemnation of Russia’s actions with its history of neutrality and as an intermediary between opposing countries.


Referring to the Swiss executive body, he added: “The Federal Council has decided to take up fully the sanctions of the European Union, including the asset freezes.”

Switzerland is not a European Union member but is all but surrounded by four EU countries: Austria, France, Germany and Italy.

Russian-born publisher implores Putin to reconsider

LONDON — Russia-born media mogul Evgeny Lebedev has used the pages of a British newspaper he owns to implore Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the invasion of Ukraine.

London’s Evening Standard on Monday features a front-page statement by Lebedev headlined “President Putin, please stop this war,” alongside an Associated Press photo of medics battling to save a 6-year-old girl killed by shelling in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Lebedev wrote: “As a Russian citizen I plead with you to stop Russians killing their Ukrainian brothers and sisters. As a British citizen I ask you to save Europe from war.”

Lebedev, whose oligarch father Alexander Lebedev once worked for the KGB, was made a member of the House of Lords in 2020.


Oligarchs Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Putin, and Mikhail Fridman, who is on a U.S. sanctions list, have also urged an end to the violence.

Meanwhile Roman Abramovich, the billionaire Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club, has offered to help broker peace. A spokesman said Abramovich “was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution, and that he has been trying to help ever since.” It was unclear what help he could provide.

Russian minister cannot attend UN meeting because of sanctions

GENEVA — Russia’s diplomatic mission says a planned visit by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the United Nations in Geneva has been cancelled after EU countries closed their airspace to flights from Russia.

Lavrov had been expected to attend high-level meetings at the Human Rights Council and the Conference on Disarmament, followed by a planned news conference.

The mission tweeted that the cancellation of the trip to landlocked Switzerland was due to an “unprecedented ban” on Lavrov’s flight by “a number of EU countries that have imposed anti-Russian sanctions.”


French ready to seize Russian assets

PARIS — French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire says France is getting ready to seize all assets of Russian officials and business leaders who are being targeted by EU sanctions.

Le Maire said France is in the process of listing property including financial assets, real estate, yachts and luxury cars.

French authorities are also seeking to identify other Russian individuals who could be added into the EU list of people targeted by sanctions due to “their proximity with the Russian leadership,” he added.

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

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed France will take part in the European effort to bring military equipment to Ukraine, to be sent via a hub in Poland. France will also provide more humanitarian aid to Ukraine in the coming days, he said.


Japan will further escalate sanctions

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says Japan is stepping up sanctions against Russia by joining the United States and other Western nations in restricting transactions with the Russian central bank.

Kishida announced the measures after speaking on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Kishida said Japan will also freeze assets of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and other Belarusian individuals and organizations, while restricting exports, because of the country’s “evident involvement in the invasion (of Ukraine).”

Kishida said his government will also allow visa extensions for Ukrainian residents in Japan who fear returning to their country amid the conflict. Earlier Monday, Japan announced plans to allow Ukrainians fleeing their country to temporarily stay in Japan without proper refugee status.

Russia closes its airspace to 36 nations


MOSCOW — Russia has closed its airspace to carriers from 36 nations, including European countries and Canada, responding in kind to their move to close their respective airspaces to all Russian aircraft.

The move, announced Monday by the state aviation agency, follows a decision by the EU and Canada over the weekend to close their skies to the Russian planes in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

It added that planes from those countries could only enter Russia’s airspace with special permission.

State Department closes embassy in Belarus

WASHINGTON, D.C — The State Department has closed the U.S. Embassy in Belarus and is allowing nonessential staff at the U.S. Embassy in Russia to leave the country due to the war in Ukraine.

US Ukraine Russia Tensions

Secretary of State Antony Blinken pauses speaks during a news conference with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the suspension of operations at the Minsk embassy and the authorized departure from Moscow in a statement on Monday.


“We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” he said.

Ben Wallace told the BBC that while he understood concerns about the warning, Britain sees no evidence of a change in Russia’s nuclear deployment or readiness to use the weapons.

“This is him reminding the world that he’s got a (nuclear) deterrent,” Wallace said. “But secondly, it’s part of a distraction as well. He’s put it out there and we’re all talking about it, rather than the lack of success they’re currently having in Ukraine.”

213,000 refugees from Ukraine have entered Poland so far

PRZEMYSL, Poland — Trains continue to bring refugees fleeing war in Ukraine to safety in Poland and in other countries.

Poland’s Border Guard says around 213,000 people have entered Poland from Ukraine since Thursday, when Russia waged war on Ukraine.

Another train carrying hundreds of refugees from Ukraine arrived early Monday in the town of Przemysl, in southeastern Poland.

In winter coats to protect them against near-freezing temperatures, with small suitcases, they lined at the platform to the exit. Some waved at the camera to show they felt relief to be out of the war zone.

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