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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.

Coverage on this live blog has ended, please click here for the latest developments

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.

Germany readying to block airspace to Russia

Carlo Angerer

Phil Helsel and Carlo Angerer

Germany is preparing to close its airspace to Russian aircraft, the latest European country to take that step since Russia attacked Ukraine this week.

Germany's transportation minister, Volker Wissing, supports the move and has ordered preparations to be made, the transportation ministry tweeted.

The United Kingdom, Romania and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are among the countries that have either closed or announced plans to close their airspace to Russian aircraft.

Also Saturday, German airline Lufthansa said it will not use Russian airspace for the next seven days "due to the current and emerging regulatory situation."

Flights that were in Russian airspace would leave, it said, and all flights to Russia will be suspended.

U.S. and key allies kick select Russian banks out of SWIFT payment system

The U.S., European Union, United Kingdom and Canada on Saturday announced that select Russian banks would be removed from the SWIFT payment system, a move that Ukraine had pushed allies for in recent days.

"We will hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin," the joint statement read. "This past week, alongside our diplomatic efforts and collective work to defend our own borders and to assist the Ukrainian government and people in their fight, we, as well as our other allies and partners around the world, imposed severe measures on key Russian institutions and banks, and on the architects of this war, including" Putin.

"As Russian forces unleash their assault on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, we are resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies," the statement continued. "We will implement these measures within the coming days."

The allies said they "commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system," will impose "restrictive measures that will prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions," and that they "commit to acting against the people and entities who facilitate the war in Ukraine and the harmful activities of the Russian government."

On that last bit, the group of nations said they will take "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."

The nations said they will launch a task force this week to ensure the implementation of the sanctions and identify and freeze assets of sanctioned people and companies within each of their jurisdictions.

Biden admin may back hitting Russia’s access to SWIFT if European allies agree


Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

Josh Lederman

The Biden administration would be supportive of taking aim at Russia through SWIFT, a service that facilitates global transactions among thousands of financial institutions if there is consensus among America’s European allies, people familiar with the discussions signaled on Saturday.

Asked whether the U.S. is seriously considering the measure if European allies are open to it, an administration official said, “As the president and [administration] officials have made clear, we are focused on coordinating with allies and partners to impose further costs on Putin for his war of choice.”

A European diplomat said one reason for the administration’s previous reluctance to push publicly for targeting Russia’s access to SWIFT has largely centered on concerns that doing so would expose and call attention to divisions among the allies about taking the step. The person said the Biden administration has been trying to sell the notion that the U.S. and European allies are in total lock-step and has not wanted to get ahead of where the Europeans are at on SWIFT.

Click here for the full article

Russian police detain conflict demonstrator in a night of protests

Image: Russian police detain a demonstrator in St. Petersburg on Feb. 26, 2022.
Russian police detain a demonstrator in St. Petersburg on Saturday.Dmitri Lovetsky / AP

Ukrainian ambassador to U.S. says country sending accusations of war crimes to The Hague

Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., said Saturday that her government is sending its allegations of Russian war crimes to The Hague, home of the International Criminal Court.

Within the past couple of days, Russian forces have levied attacks against "kindergartens" and "orphanages," she said at a press conference, noting that children have been injured and killed across the country.

"We are collecting all of this, we have recorded all of this, we have preserved all of this," she said. "And we will immediately transmit this to The Hague."

"Responsibility for these actions is inevitable," Markarova added.

Cryptocurrency donations pour in after Ukraine puts out call on Twitter

Ukraine's government received more than $4 million in cryptocurrency on Saturday shortly after it began directly soliciting funds on social media, according to its accounts' public transactions.

Ukraine's official Twitter account, as well as its minister for digital transformation, tweeted Crypto wallet addresses where people can donate their bitcoin, ethereum and tether, a cryptocurrency whose value is tied to the U.S. dollar.

Within a few hours, those addresses had received more than $761,949 of bitcoin and more than $3.4 million worth of ethereum, the account showed.

Texas governor asks businesses to voluntarily stop selling Russian-made products

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Saturday afternoon that he has asked businesses in the state to "voluntarily remove" all Russian products from their offerings.

Top Ukrainian official says holding down Kharkiv

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the head of the presidential office in Ukraine, said Ukrainian forces are holding firm in Kharkiv, a city in northeastern Ukraine.

Arestovych also claimed Russian troops have taken an "operational pause" for the time being due to losses on the battlefield.

NBC News has not independently confirmed the pause.

Conservative radio host offers rare criticism of Putin at CPAC

Conservative radio host Mark Levin ripped into Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando — breaking from the meeting's near-silence on the Russian autocrat.“

He’s a killer,” Levin said, warning that Putin’s appetite for expansion is unquenchable. 

“He’s looking well beyond Ukraine,” Levin said. “He’s not even talking about [stopping at] the Soviet Empire.”

Zelenskyy asks U.N. Secretary General to strip Russia of Security Council vote

Abigail Williams

Phil McCausland and Abigail Williams

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a tweet Saturday he asked United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres during a call to strip Russia of its vote on the Security Council.

Guterres did not mention the request in the summary of his call with Zelenskyy. A U.N. spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution Friday that demanded Moscow end its attack on Ukraine and withdraw its troops. Eleven nations voted in favor of the measure and China and two others abstained, while Russia was the lone country to vote no. 

As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Russia holds veto power over all resolutions made by the international body. 

Russian owner of Chelsea FC gives 'stewardship' of club to charitable foundation

The Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club, one of the flagship soccer teams in Europe, said Saturday that he is handing the "stewardship and care" of the team to the club's charitable foundation.

Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire and Putin ally who bought Chelsea in 2003, said in a statement posted to the team's website that he viewed his role as a "custodian of the club."

"I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart," he wrote. "I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC."

It's was not immediately clear exactly what the change would mean for the team or if it would change his ownership status. 

Ukraine will 'fight as much as necessary to liberate our country,' Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday vowed that his country will stand its ground and continue fighting for control of Kyiv.

In an address to the nation, Zelenskyy praised Ukrainian "solidarity" and "courage" and said his people will keep battling to defend the state from Russian attacks. "The world saw — Ukrainians are strong ... Ukrainians are powerful. Ukrainians are brave, Ukrainians are in their homeland and will never give it to anyone," he said.

Russians are trying to "destroy us" and "everything in the history of our country," Zelenskyy added. "We are doing a worthy rebuff, I'm sure you see all this in the news, and I want to tell you only one thing — we will fight as much as necessary to liberate our country ... Even when the shelling continues, the enemy has no chance ... Glory to Ukraine."

Germany considering 'targeted' approach to cutting off Russia from SWIFT, foreign minister says

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Saturday that her country was working to further sanction Moscow for its invasion and is considering targeting Russia's involvement in the SWIFT banking system.

Baerbock said that Ukraine had "an inalienable right to self-defense," explaining Germany's decision to send weapons and other military assistance to the country.

She also said that the country was attempting to figure out a way to limit blowback should countries target Russia's involvement in SWIFT — a secure messaging service that links 11,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries.  

“We are working flat-out on how to limit the collateral damage of a SWIFT decoupling so that it hits the intended target," she said in a statement Saturday. "What we need is a targeted and functional retrenchment of SWIFT vis-à-vis Russia.”

That is a major shift, even from a few days ago, and could bring about action more quickly.

President Joe Biden said earlier this week that pulling Russia out of SWIFT was something he was considering, but it was not fully supported by all European leaders.

"The sanctions that were proposed on all their banks have equal consequence — maybe more consequences —  than SWIFT number one," Biden said when announcing new sanctions targeting Russia's banks and economy on Thursday. "Number two, it is always an option. But right now, that's not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take." 

Germany sends weapons to Ukraine after criticism

Carlo Angerer

Phil McCausland and Carlo Angerer

The German government said Saturday that it will send military assistance to Ukraine, a move that comes after the country was criticized for being slow to condemn the Russian invasion and for being reluctant to impose sanctions on Moscow.

Germany said it would send the Ukrainians 1,000 tank defense weapons and 500 ground-to-air, or "Stinger," missiles from its military stockpiles. The German government said the supplies would be delivered to Ukraine as soon as possible. 

It is Germany's "duty" to support Ukraine against Moscow's attack, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement, adding the Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade "marks a turning point" that "threatens our entire post-war order."

Politico was first to report the shift in Berlin's stance on sending lethal weapons to conflict zones amid pressure from NATO and European Union allies.

In a tweet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged Germany's move and asked Scholz to "keep it up."

"Anti-war coalition in action!" Zelenskyy tweeted.

Retired Lt. Gen. Hodges says he believes Kyiv might not fall

Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, said Saturday that Ukrainian forces have surpassed expectations in their fight against Russia's military.

Moscow's forces are underperforming and none of their objectives have been met, Hodges said in an interview on MSNBC, adding, "I don't think it’s feasible that Kyiv is going to fall." He noted the massive Russian troop numbers required to encircle the Ukrainian capital and the effort it would take to clear each of the city's buildings.

"I'm not going to say that it's basically irrefutable or inevitable that Russia will eventually overwhelm," he said. "I just don't believe that they have the capability, especially the further they go from Russian sovereign territory and from Belarus, that they will be able to maintain this."

Russia's supply line is getting longer and they are using huge amounts of fuel and resources to maintain the invasion so they may soon decide to switch from ground fighting to a more accelerated and lethal form of conflict, he said

Hodges' analysis comes after reports that the Kremlin is growing increasingly frustrated over the lack of traction it has made in Ukraine.

Damaged vehicle on the streets of Kyiv

Image: Ukrainian servicemen and a damaged vehicle after fighting with Russian troops in Kyiv on Feb. 26, 2022.
Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Ukrainian servicemen walk past a damaged vehicle after fighting with Russian troops in Kyiv on Saturday.

Biden says he doesn't put much stock in Trump's assessment of Putin

President Joe Biden told a liberal podcast host in an interview that he doesn't give much weight to former President Donald Trump's assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I put as much stock in Trump saying that Putin's a genius as I do when he called himself a stable genius," Biden said in a brief clip tweeted Saturday by Brian Tyler Cohen, a progressive commentator. The interview was taped Friday, according to Cohen on Twitter.

Biden's comment came in response to a question he was asked about Trump's remarks earlier this week in which Trump described Putin as "very savvy" in an interview with a conservative podcast for the decision to recognize two breakaway regions of Ukraine.

"I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” Trump said in an interview published Tuesday.

"I said, 'How smart is that?' And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. ... We could use that on our southern border," the former president added.

Two dead, six injured in missile strike that hit apartment building: Ukraine officials

Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Anastasiia Parafeniuk and Liz Johnstone

Two Kyiv residents were killed and six injured after a missile hit a high-rise apartment building early Saturday morning, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said.

Damage included a large hole ripped through the side of the building.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's minister for foreign affairs, blamed the strike on Russia but NBC News was unable to verify that claim. Russia denies targeting civilians.

Image: An apartment building in Kyiv was damaged after it was reportedly struck by a Russian rocket on Feb. 26, 2022.
An apartment building in Kyiv was damaged after it was reportedly struck by a Russian rocket on Saturday.Daniel Leal / AFP - Getty Images

Kyiv mayor extends nightly curfew until Monday

The mayor of Kyiv has extended a strict curfew until Monday morning as Ukrainian forces battled to keep hold of the capital city, which is under heavy Russian attack.

The curfew will run nightly from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following day local time "for more effective defense of the capital and security of its inhabitants," mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Twitter Saturday, as explosions were heard around the capital. The previous curfew in Kyiv had run from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time

All civilians seen on the street during the curfew "will be considered members of the enemy's sabotage and reconnaissance groups," Klitschko said.

NBC News

U.S. official: More than half of Russian forces Putin amassed around Ukraine committed

More than 50 percent of the Russian forces President Vladimir Putin had amassed around Ukraine in preparation for the invasion have been committed inside the country, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said Saturday.

As of Saturday morning, Russians are currently approximate 30 kilometers, or a little under 20 miles, north of Kyiv's city center, this official said, but stressed that the situation was fluid and will change hour by hour. The heaviest fighting is still in and around the northern city of Kharkiv, the country's second largest, the official said.

U.S. sees signs of Russian frustration with fierce Ukrainian resistance, senior Defense official says

The U.S. continues to see indications of a viable Ukrainian resistance along with signs that the resistance is stiffer than the Russians expected, senior U.S. Defense Department official told reporters during a background briefing Saturday morning.

The U.S. also has indications that the Russians are increasingly frustrated by their lack of progress particularly in the north around the capital city of Kyiv and Kharkiv, the nation's second-largest city where Ukrainian troops have dug in amid fierce fighting, the official said.

To date, the Russian military has launched more than 250 missile launches, the official added. Ukraine's air force, meanwhile, is still flying and the airspace remains contested, not under the control of either country.

There are signs of intermittent internet outages in the country, this official said. Additionally, the U.S. also has seen an uptick in how many people are trying to leave the country.

This official declined to comment on reports that the U.S. offered to evacuate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and that he refused.

Blinken authorizes additional $350 million in military assistance to Ukraine

Christina Zhao, Courtney Kube and Abigail Williams

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday authorized an additional $350 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

"Today, as Ukraine fights with courage and pride against Russia’s brutal and unprovoked assault, I have authorized, pursuant to a delegation by the President, an unprecedented third Presidential Drawdown of up to $350 million for immediate support to Ukraine’s defense," Blinken said in a statement.

This aid is the third drawdown of money and brings the total security assistance the U.S. has committed to Ukraine over the past year to over $1 billion, Blinken said, adding that the State Department previously authorized $60 million last fall as the present threat against Ukraine from Russia developed, and a further $200 million in December.

Biden instructed the State Department to release up to $350 million worth of military help to Ukraine on Friday as it fought to beat back a Russian invasion. 

"Yesterday, the President authorized an additional $350 million of military assistance from Department of Defense inventories, including anti-armor, small arms and various munitions, body armor, and related equipment in support of Ukraine’s front-line defenders facing down Russia’s unprovoked attack," said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.

Ukrainians tear down road signs hoping to confuse Russian troops


Oksana Parafeniuk

Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Oksana Parafeniuk, Anastasiia Parafeniuk and Allan Smith

Additional NBC News reporters and producers on the ground say they witnessed road service employees taking down signs at various points along the country, including along the highway route to Lviv, as part of an apparent coordinated effort to confuse Russian forces who may not be familiar with the region.

Ukrainian soldiers barricade roads to protect region around Mariupol

Richard EngelNBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent, Host of MSNBC's "On Assignment with Richard Engel"

Reporting from provincial roads outside of Ukraine's key port city of Mariupol Saturday, NBC News' chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel observed many checkpoints and barricades built by Ukrainian soldiers to protect communities in the region. 

"They've been cutting down trees, they've been putting stones and earth, piled up in the middle of the roads," he told NBC News' "TODAY." 

He said that the roads were "almost entirely empty" and "very few people here are venturing out of their homes." 

Ukrainian soldiers were also placing the yellow and blue colors of the Ukrainian flag on their helmets and uniforms in attempts to distinguish themselves from Russian soldiers and avoid friendly fire, he added. 

There have been reports that some Russian soldiers were found to be wearing Ukrainian military uniforms and using similar military equipment to the Ukrainian army, he said. 

Grief, fear and disbelief: Fleeing Kyiv as the Russians close in

Rhoda Kwan

Huddled in the basement of a hotel in the heart of Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, Oksana Parafeniuk and her husband awoke Friday as sirens blared and Russian shells thudded and crunched.

It was time to flee Vladimir Putin’s advancing army.

She and her husband went to their apartment and quickly gathered clothes, cameras, essential documents, water and snacks.

“People are of course very scared. It’s hard to express… It’s hard to put it into words because it’s insane what’s going on,” Parafeniuk, 32, a photographer and journalist who has worked with NBC News, said. “It seemed like fighting would intensify, and it’s scary."

Read the full story here

Twitter restricted in Russia amid broader social media crackdown

Russia has begun limiting access to Twitter, with an internet watchdog reporting Saturday that the platform is restricted on many of the country's major internet providers.

Netblocks, an internet monitoring organization, said in a blog post: "The restrictions are in effect across multiple providers and come as Russian authorities and social media platforms clash over platform rules in relation to the conflict with Ukraine."

The Twitter crackdown comes after Russia's media regulator said Friday it would restrict access to Facebook because of its treatment of Russian media organizations.

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, said that Russia ordered it to stop fact checking and labeling Russian state media content, but that the company declined to do so.

France seizes cargo ship suspected of violating sanctions against Russia

Nancy Ing

A Russian ship was seized off the coast of France by the country's maritime authorities because they suspected it belonged to a company targeted by European Union sanctions.   

The cargo vessel was carrying a shipment of cars to St. Petersburg after setting off from the French city of Rouen, a spokesperson for the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel told NBC News.  

“Every night sea police carry out patrols on the waters looking out for migrants crossing the Channel," they said. "They came across the Russian boat, an inspection aboard was made and the boat ordered to return to the French port.”

French customs agents boarded the ship and are carrying out an investigation to see if the boat has indeed violated the sanction, they added.

Ukraine, already contending with Covid and polio, faces mounting health threats

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brings a host of serious threats to public health beyond the military violence itself, experts warn.

The conflict could make it difficult for people with conditions like diabetes or cancer to get treatment, and it may increase the spread of infectious diseases, including Covid-19, as people gather in shelters or flee the country.

Ukraine is coming off its largest spike in Covid cases yet — its seven-day average hit a record of 37,408 on Feb. 10, according to an NBC News tally. Less than 40 percent of the population had been vaccinated as of Feb. 15.

What’s more, Ukraine has been trying to control a polio outbreak since October. Two children with paralytic polio have been identified, and 19 more were identified as infected with the virus but did not develop paralysis.

Read full story here

Russia no longer needs diplomatic ties with West, ex-President Medvedev says

Rhoda Kwan

Russia doesn't really need diplomatic ties with the West, its former President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday after his country was subjected to severe sanctions.  

Writing on the Russian social network VK, Medvedev, said it was time to "padlock the embassies."

"Sanctions can be a fantastic reason for a final review of relations with all the states which have imposed them," he said.  

He added Moscow would continue its operation in Ukraine until it achieved goals defined by President Vladimir Putin.

Rhoda Kwan

A Ukrainian man from the civil defense guards a checkpoint at a tire barricade in Kyiv on Saturday.

Emilio Morenatti / AP

Three children killed as death toll rises to 198, Ukraine's health minister says

Rhoda Kwan

Almost 200 Ukrainians have died since Russia launched its attack earlier this week, the country's health minister said in a Facebook post Saturday. 

The minister, Oleh Liashko, said three children were among the 198 dead. He added that 1,115 had been wounded, 33 of whom were children.    

Liashko also said that Ukraine's hospitals were still operational and providing medical care. 

3 years ago Zelenskyy was a TV comedian. Now he’s standing up to Putin’s army.

Three years ago, he was playing a president in a popular television comedy. Today, he is Ukraine’s president, confronting Russia’s fearsome military might.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy is leading his country during an invasion that threatens to explode into the worst conflict in Europe’s post-World War II history.

On Friday, as Russian troops reached Kyiv, he posted a defiant handheld video to social media showing him next to the presidential palace in the heart of the Ukrainian capital, surrounded by members of his Cabinet.

“We are all here,” he said. “We are defending our independence, our country.”

Read full story here.

Poland boycotts World Cup qualifier against Russia

The Associated Press

Poland is refusing to play its World Cup qualifier against Russia next month in response to the invasion of Ukraine, the Polish soccer federation president said Saturday.

Cezary Kulesza made the announcement on Twitter and indicated Poland was in talks with other federations to present a unified position to FIFA.

"No more words, time to act!” Kulesza wrote, saying the move was prompted by the “escalation of the aggression.”

Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, the nation's all-time leading scorer, immediately responded to say it's the “right decision!”

“I can't imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues,” the Bayern Munich star said on Twitter. “Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

Ukrainian refugees arrive at Hungarian border

People fleeing from Ukraine arrive in Hungary at a border crossing in Beregsurany on Saturday.

Image: Refugees fleeing from Ukraine arrive in Hungary
People fleeing from Ukraine arrive in Hungary at a border crossing in Beregsurany on Saturday.Bernadett Szabo / Reuters

More than 120,000 Ukrainian refugees have left the country, U.N. says

The Associated Press

More than 120,000 Ukrainian refugees have left the country since Russia began its attack on its neighboring country this week, the United Nations refugee agency said Saturday.  

The situation was expected to get worse, the U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, said in told CNN.

“We now see over 120,000 people that have gone to all of the neighboring countries,” she said. “The reception that they are receiving from local communities, from local authorities, is tremendous. But it’s a dynamic situation. We are really quite devastated, obviously, with what’s to come.”

Most are heading to Poland and Moldova, but also to Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, the U.N. said. 

Ukraine's leader defiant as Kyiv holds firm against Russian attacks

Kyiv woke Saturday after a night of explosions and gun battles in the streets to find the Ukrainian government was still in control of the capital, vowing not to lay down its arms against the Russian assault.

The Kremlin's unprovoked attack on its democratic neighbor has drawn widespread condemnation and left Russian President Vladimir Putin facing pariah status on the global stage. Tens of thousands have fled the Russian advance, and those who stayed are enduring an assault that Ukraine and international watchdogs said was increasingly hitting civilians.

While many Kyiv residents spent the night huddled in underground shelters, others have taken up arms and made Molotov cocktails to help their army's desperate but stern resistance against Putin's invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has refused to leave the capital despite saying he believes he is the number one target of the Russian attack. Instead he has been posting videos from the streets, urging his people to join him in defiance.

Read full story here.

Baby boys born in bomb shelter amid shelling and explosions in Kherson

Anastasiia Parafeniuk

Amid shelling and explosions, two baby boys were born in a bomb shelter in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson Friday, Ukraine's health minister said. 

"Life goes on, we give birth to children and no one can beat us!" Oleh Liashko wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday, adding that he was "incredibly proud of our doctors."

Liashko said that his ministry was "doing what is possible and impossible to ensure that hospitals have everything they need."  

"I never thought I would look for bulletproof vests for doctors," he added. 

Poland bans Russia airlines from its airspace


Poland has joined the Czech Republic and the U.K. in banning all Russian airlines from its airspace.

"I have ordered the preparation of a resolution of the council of ministers which will lead to the closure of the airspace over Poland to Russian airlines," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote on Facebook on Friday. The ban came into force at midnight local time (6p.m. ET).  

The Czech Republic and the U.K. have both banned all Russian-registered flights from flying in their airspace or landing in their country since Russia attacked Ukraine. The U.K. on Saturday extended its ban to all Russian private jets. 

Moscow responded with a reciprocal ban on British Airways.

Rhoda Kwan

Residents and armed personnel in Kyiv take shelter behind a vehicle as air raid sirens rang in the capital on Saturday morning. 

People take cover as an air-raid siren sounds in Kyiv
Gleb Garanich / Reuters

Kyiv high-rise damaged, Ukrainian official alleges hit by missile

A view shows an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv
An apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday.Gleb Garanich / Reuters

Photos showed a gaping hole in the side of a Kyiv high-rise that a Ukrainian official alleged was damaged by a Russian missile. 

NBC News has not verified the allegation by Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

But explosions and gunfire were heard in Kyiv overnight amid what officials described as an assault by Russian forces, more than 48 hours after Russia attacked Ukraine.

A fire at the damaged building was extinguished Saturday and the building was being evacuated, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said. 

Information about victims was being gathered.

'Enemy is trying to break into the city," Kyiv mayor says

The mayor of Ukraine's capital Kyiv said Saturday said that Russian troops trying to enter the city have been beaten back, but other sabotage and reconnaissance groups were inside.

Explosions and gunfire have been heard in Kyiv overnight and the nation's president warned of a full assault.

"The night was difficult, but there are no Russian troops in the capital," Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a Telegram message Saturday morning, according to an NBC News translation. "The enemy is trying to break into the city."

But Klitschko said that "SRGs," or sabotage and reconnaissance groups, were operating in Kyiv. As of 6 a.m. 35 people had been injured, including two children, he said. 

Officials in Kyiv urged citizens to take shelter and street fighting was occurring, The Associated Press reported.

Kyiv still under Ukrainian control, presidential adviser says

Ukraine remained in control of its capital after a night of Russian attacks on cities, an adviser to Ukraine's president said Saturday morning.

There is fighting on the outskirts of the capital of Kyiv and in the coastal city of Mariupol, but presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said the situation was under control.

"We knew that tonight was going to be a difficult night," Podoliak said, adding that Russian attempts to harm Ukrainian cities "didn't work."

Zelenskyy, who had warned that Russian forces would launch a "full scale storm" on Kyiv, posted a video Saturday morning standing in front of what appeared to be a building next to the presidential office. "I'm here," he said. 

Zelenskyy denied what he said were false claims of an evacuation. "We won’t put down [our] weapon, we’ll protect our country," he said in the video, according to an NBC News translation.

Explosions were heard in Kyiv overnight, and video showed fighting near the Kyiv Zoo. The mayor of Vasylkiv, a city around 20 miles south of Kyiv, said Russian paratroopers landed but were repulsed. NBC News has not independently verified that claim.

Smoke and flames rise in Kyiv on Saturday, as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.

Smoke and flames rise in Kyiv on Saturday, as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.

Image: Smoke and flames rise over during the shelling in Kyiv
Gleb Garanich / Reuters

Biden authorizes up to $600 million in assistance to Ukraine

President Joe Biden on Friday signed an order authorizing up to $600 million for military assistance to Ukraine, as it tries to fend off an attack by Russia.

The memo under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 authorizes the Secretary of State to determine the aid. It cites an aim of providing "immediate military assistance to Ukraine."

Biden and members of his administration, along with many other countries, has condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine which began Thursday morning local time.

Biden had pledged to help Ukraine financially if it was attacked by Russia, and the U.S., European Union, and Canada have all announced sanctions, including ones Friday that are directly against Puti

Russian attacks repulsed in cities, regions, leaders say

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

The Associated Press

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.

Twitter, Meta pause some ads amid Russia-Ukraine conflict

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

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


Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

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.

Gabe Gutierrez

Biden administration asks for $6.4B more for Ukraine crisis


Frank Thorp Vproducer and off-air reporter

Haley Talbot

Sahil Kapur, Frank Thorp V and Haley Talbot

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

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.

Canada joins countries sanctioning Putin

Canada will impose sanctions against Putin directly to punish him for the military attack on Ukraine, joining the U.S. and European Union in taking the rare step.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attack on Ukraine an atrocity and "President Putin's war of choice."

"We will be imposing sanctions on President Putin and his fellow architects of this barbaric war," Trudeau said at a news conference Friday. Sanctions will also be imposed on Putin's chief of staff and foreign minister, Trudeau said, as well as Belarus and its leaders.

Trudeau also said Canada supports Russia's removal from the SWIFT international banking system. That step has not been taken, but some have called for it and Zelenskyy has indicated support for the move.

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

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

Abigail Williams

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

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'

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.

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

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

Abigail Williams

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

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. 

Russian offensive unexpectedly slowed by stiff Ukrainian resistance

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

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.