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Germany says it's sending military aid

Germany also said it was considering a "targeted" approach to disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT banking system as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine.

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Ukrainian forces kept hold of the capital city of Kyiv Saturday as a senior U.S. Defense official said there were signs the invading Russian forces were frustrated by fiercer-than-expected resistance.

Here's what to know now:

In a major shift, Germany announced it would join the list of countries sending military assistance to Ukraine — and said it was considering a "targeted" approach to disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT banking system.

The U.S. continues to see indications of viable Ukrainian resistance, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said Saturday. Moscow was particularly stymied by the fight Ukrainians have put up in the north around Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, the official said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has refused to leave the capital. Instead he has been posting videos from the streets, urging his people to join him in defiance.

Follow our in-depth coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis here.

Russian attacks repulsed in cities, regions, leaders say

162d ago / 5:23 AM UTC

Russian attacks around Ukraine were repulsed Saturday, according to leaders in several regions and cities. 

Natalia Balasynovych, mayor of Vasylkiv said the city, south of Kyiv, remains under the control of the Ukrainian military after a Russian attack. 

"Russian paratroopers landed with parachutes in the fields, forests and villages of our community," she said in communications through Telegram, according to an NBC translation. " ... There were fights, the street was on fire. They dreamed of capturing our airfield to deploy their troops, but our 40th Brigade was powerful and repulsed the attack."

NBC News has not independently confirmed the claims. 

The head of Mykolaiv said Saturday that the southern Ukrainian region was also defended. 

"Mykolaiv was defended, the air defense repulsed the attack. They did not land in Ochakiv," Vitaliy Kim, head of the regional state of Mykolai, said in a video according to an NBC translation. "The bridge was blown up. There is no landing now, no one is coming to us."

Ochakiv is a coastal city in the south of the country, east of Odessa. NBC News has not independently confirmed the claims.

Explosions were heard in the capital city of Kyiv overnight, and Zelenskyy in an address on social media warned of a "full scale storm" by Russian forces. Kyiv is around 260 miles north of Ochakiv.

Street fighting underway in Kyiv, city officials say

162d ago / 5:13 AM UTC

Kyiv officials are warning residents that street fighting is underway against Russian forces, and they are urging people to seek shelter.

The warning issued Saturday advised residents to remain in shelters, to avoid going near windows or on balconies, and to take precautions against being hit by debris or bullets.

162d ago / 5:08 AM UTC

Twitter, Meta pause some ads amid Russia-Ukraine conflict

162d ago / 4:54 AM UTC

Social media giants Twitter and Meta on Friday paused some advertising on their platforms amid Russia's continued invasion of Ukraine.

Reasons for the rejection, which impacts advertising that has become a core moneymaker for the platforms, were different in each company.

Twitter announced its pause of ads in Ukraine and Russia, which it said was to "ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don’t detract from it."

The San Francisco-based company's statement, also released in Russian, said it was policing "platform manipulation" and misleading accounts, and monitoring vulnerable high-profile accounts, such as those belonging to government officials and journalists, "to mitigate any attempts at a targeted takeover or manipulation."

It added it would match employee donations to verified refugee-support organizations working in the region. 

Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy for Facebook parent company Meta, said it was "prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on our platform anywhere in the world" as a direct response to the invasion.

He said the platform would monitor the incursion and planned "additional steps" yet to be announced.

The news came amid reports of firefights in Kyiv.

Video appears to show heavy fighting near Kyiv Zoo

163d ago / 3:11 AM UTC
We apologize, this video has expired.

Video showed the apparent sounds of heavy fighting early Saturday in Ukraine as the president warned of an assault of Russian troops.

The video posted by journalist Illia Ponomarenko with the The Kyiv Independent was said to be shot near the Kyiv Zoo. 

"Extremely hard combat near the Kyiv Zoo now," he wrote. NBC News has not independently confirmed the situation there.

Zelenskyy earlier warned in an address that "the fate of Ukraine is being decided now" and predicted a " full scale storm" by Russian troops.

Russian forces attacked Ukraine on Thursday morning in an offensive that has been widely condemned. On Friday, the European Union, U.S., and Canada announced sanctions directly against Putin, a rare step.

The Kyiv Zoo is less than 5 miles from the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament.

U.S. weighs hotline with Russian military to prevent accidental clash near Ukraine

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163d ago / 2:57 AM UTC

The Biden administration has been working to set up a communication backchannel with the Russian military to prevent an accidental clash between U.S. and Russian forces along the Ukrainian border, as Moscow mounts a sweeping attack across the country, according to two sources with knowledge of the discussions.

Such an arrangement would allow officials from both countries to exchange information to ensure that Russian forces attacking Ukraine avoid crossing paths with U.S. forces operating nearby in Eastern Europe, including along the Polish border and the Black Sea, the sources said. Still, they said, while the administration has different options for a “deconfliction channel,” as the military calls it, with Russia, none of the options completely remove all risk to U.S. troops in the region.

Some U.S. officials had reservations about setting up the communication channel before Russia launched its attack on Ukraine this week, fearing it could have been seen as tacitly accepting Moscow’s invasion, the sources said. The channel would focus on the risk of errant missile strikes and ensuring Russian and U.S. aircraft and warships operate in separate areas, the sources said.

Read the full story here.

163d ago / 2:51 AM UTC

Biden administration asks for $6.4B more for Ukraine crisis

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163d ago / 2:16 AM UTC

The Biden administration has asked Congress for an additional $6.4 billion to aid Ukraine and its neighbors with the fallout from Russia's attack, four sources familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

Two of the sources said $3.5 billion would go to the Department of Defense, while $2.9 billion would go to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID is the government's international aid agency.  

President Joe Biden had pledged to help Ukraine financially if it was attacked by Russia and has hit Russia with numerous sanctions since it began its attack. 

'I do not believe this war is in your name,' U.K.'s Boris Johnson tells Russians

163d ago / 2:12 AM UTC

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday he is in "close contact" with Zelenskyy amid a continued Russian attack in Ukraine. 

Johnson in a video also addressed the Russian people, and said the invasion ordered by Putin is causing the country to be isolated and shunned.

"I do not believe this war is in your name," Johnson said in Russian in the video, which was posted to Twitter. 

Johnson's message comes amid protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and in other parts of Russia against the attack on Ukraine.

The OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests said that 1,820 demonstrators were detained across Russia on Thursday night, and over 400 were arrested Friday, The Associated Press reported.

'The fate of Ukraine is being decided now,' Zelenskyy says

163d ago / 1:25 AM UTC

As Russian troops advanced on Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a desperate plea for help.

“The fate of Ukraine is being decided now,” Zelenskyy said in an address on social media. “Special attention is on Kyiv — we should not lose the capital. The enemy will use all the possible forces they have to break our resistance. They will be mean and hard. Tonight they will begin a full-scale storm.”

Explosions, air raid sirens and the sound of gunfire filled the air over Kyiv on Friday. Russian troops bore down on the city as the global backlash mounted against the unprovoked attack on a European democracy.

More than 100,000 displaced amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, aid group says

163d ago / 1:24 AM UTC

The International Rescue Committee estimated Friday that more than 100,000 people have been displaced amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Shelter and food needs as well as the risk of abuse and exploitation for women and girls fleeing Ukraine are among the humanitarian aid group's top concerns, Lani Fortier, IRC's director of emergency deliveries said in a statement. The group was mobilizing resources in neighboring Poland.

"Over 100,000 people are reported to be displaced internally within Ukraine and thousands more are fleeing over borders into Poland, Romania, Moldova and other European states," she said.

Fortier urged Russia to respect international law after a hospital in Donetsk, part of a breakaway region Putin declared independent of Russia ahead of the offensive, was attacked. Four people were killed, her organization said.

"The IRC continues to urge for the adherence to International Humanitarian Law across the crisis including the protection of civilians, civilian infrastructure like hospitals and schools, and vulnerable groups including women and girls," the nonprofit said in Friday's statement.

Here are the Russian oligarchs targeted in Biden's sanctions

163d ago / 1:06 AM UTC

A former KGB leader, diamond mine executive and deputy prime minister — these are just some of the roles held by Russian oligarchs targeted by the Biden administration in a round of "unprecedented" sanctions against members of Putin's inner circle.

The U.S., working closely with European allies, has been steadily waging sanctions against Moscow with the goal of deterring Putin from escalating actions in Ukraine. The efforts, which do not appear to have thwarted Putin yet, could have lasting effects on Russian business and government leaders with international dealings.

The White House said Friday it would also take the rare step of directly sanctioning Putin, a largely symbolic act given that the Russian leader has hidden his wealth and made it difficult to freeze assets.

“Elites close to Putin continue to leverage their proximity to the Russian President to pillage the Russian state, enrich themselves, and elevate their family members into some of the highest positions of power in the country at the expense of the Russian people," the U.S. Department of the Treasury said in a statement.

"Sanctioned oligarchs and powerful Russian elites have used family members to move assets and to conceal their immense wealth.”

Read more here. 

U.N. humanitarian chief: 'We are not leaving Ukraine'

163d ago / 12:52 AM UTC

The United Nations' humanitarian coordinator vowed that aid operations in embattled Ukraine would remain and would expand in the country following Russia's military invasion.

Even before Russia attacked the country, around 3 million people in eastern Ukraine needed aid due to eight years of war, Martin Griffiths, the U.N.'s humanitarian assistance under-secretary, said Friday.

"We had not left. We are not leaving Ukraine," Griffiths said at a briefing. "Obviously, our people there are bunkered down at the moment. But we're expanding our presence in Ukraine and scaling up efforts to help meet the needs of people affected across that country."

There have been unconfirmed reports of shelling on urban centers and civilian casualties, Griffiths said, and populations have been displaced. "I think it's fair to say that hundreds of thousands of people are on the move in Ukraine and out of Ukraine as we speak," he said.

The U.N. has moved $20 million for immediate emergency aid for Ukraine. Also Friday, Canada pledged to match donations made to the Red Cross for humanitarian aid to Ukraine and to those displaced by the conflict, up to $10 million.

Chernobyl isn't the biggest nuclear risk. Ukraine's active nuclear power plants are.

163d ago / 12:25 AM UTC

While much attention has been paid to Chernobyl this week as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, there is growing concern about the four active nuclear power plants that supply half of the nation's power.

Those four power plants, located near towns and cities in western and southern Ukraine, contain 15 operating nuclear reactors. The concern is that a nuclear disaster could occur if during the conflict they were accidentally damaged, left unmaintained or cut off from the power grid needed to cool the reactors.

Ukraine reported that its country's nuclear power reactors are still operating "safely and securely," the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday morning.

But the organization, which is dedicated to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, said it remained deeply concerned.

Read more here.

One of Russia's closest allies denies request for troops

163d ago / 12:21 AM UTC

Kazakhstan, one of Russia's closest allies and a southern neighbor, is denying a request for its troops to join the offensive in Ukraine, officials said Friday.

Additionally, the former Soviet republic said it is not recognizing the Russia-created breakaway republics upheld by Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, as a pretext for its aggression in Ukraine. 

Despite ceasefire accords covering the disputed land, Putin on Monday declared Russia's recognition of Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) as independent states.

The surprising development from a traditional ally of Russia has the support of the United States.

“We welcome Kazakhstan’s announcement that they will not recognize the LPR and DPR," the National Security Council said in a statement. "We also welcome Kazakhstan’s refusal to send its forces to join Putin’s war in Ukraine."

Russia vetoes U.N. Security Council condemnation of its offensive

163d ago / 11:39 PM UTC

Russia on Friday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning its offensive in neighboring Ukraine.

The council voted 11-1, with three abstentions, to condemn the country's military aggression and call for it to cease, reverse and withdraw. China was among three abstentions despite its tacit support for Russia, including a refusal to back sanctions against the country.

India and United Arab Emirates also abstained. Russia's vote included "no" and its veto. Russia holds the presidency of the elite council for the month of February and presided over the vote.

The resolution cosponsored by the United States and Albania would have had the council condemning the offensive "in the strongest terms" and demanding that Russia "immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine."

Ukrainian ambassador to U.S. accuses Russia of war crimes

163d ago / 10:20 PM UTC

Russia has committed war crimes, taken civilians hostage and attacked an orphanage with 50 children inside, Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, said at a press conference Friday.

"The Russian propaganda machine says that civilians were not targeted. I want to tell you that is not true," she said, claiming that Russian rockets hit residential areas and ambulances, injured children and destroyed strategic gas pipelines.

She said that Ukrainian armed forces are keeping the situation under control, claiming that 2,800 Russians were dead in the conflict and that 80 Russian tanks, 10 planes and seven helicopters had been destroyed.

NBC News has not confirmed the numbers of any injuries or deaths on either side.

The ambassador also raised concerns about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which remains irradiated and a key storage facility for atomic waste after the infamous 1986 meltdown. The Russians seized control and took 92 hostages, she said, forcing them to work in shifts that do not comply with international regulations.

"All responsibility now lies with the Russian army," she said regarding the continued maintenance of Chernobyl. 

Markarova noted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Joe Biden had another call Friday to discuss an anti-war coalition that included 73 countries, "working hand in hand," though she said those countries should also work to further defend Ukraine from Russian attacks.

While she applauded the sanctions the U.S. and other countries have announced on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, she said the sanctions on Russia should go further to fully "exclude it" from the international financial system.

The press conference concluded with Markarova thanking Russians who had "protested against Putin's attack on Ukraine."

"We would like to say, we see you, and it gives us hope that there are forces in Russia that don’t support a brutal attack on this nation," she said. 

163d ago / 10:15 PM UTC

Russian offensive unexpectedly slowed by stiff Ukrainian resistance


163d ago / 9:33 PM UTC

Two days in, the Russian offensive appeared to be stymied by stiffer-than-expected resistance from highly motivated Ukrainian armed forces.

Despite an overwhelming advantage in manpower and equipment, the Russian advance lost some of its momentum Friday and the quick victory Russian President Vladimir Putin was counting on is no longer assured, a senior United States defense official told NBC News.

"We do assess that there is greater resistance by the Ukrainians than the Russians expected," the official said. “They are fighting for their country.”

Read more here.

White House will directly sanction Putin

163d ago / 8:55 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Friday it would join the European Union in directly sanctioning President Vladimir Putin, as Russian forces continued a brutal invasion of Ukraine, threatening to take over the capital city of Kyiv.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that following a conversation with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the U.S. would join European allies in sanctioning Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other members of the Russian national security team.

The Biden administration has been ratcheting up sanctions against Moscow over the past few days, working in coordination with European allies to take unprecedented measures in hopes of deterring Putin from launching a wide-scale attack against Ukraine.

But those efforts appeared to have done little to keep Putin from pushing Russian forces further into Ukraine on Friday, as Kyiv was rocked by explosions and the sound of air raid sirens.

Read the full story here.