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'You pray': Ukrainian American church sees influx of parishioners, welcomes new arrivals
The Rev. Volodymyr Steliac held Sunday service at St. Andrews Cathedral in Silver Spring, Maryland, like he has every Sunday before for 26 years. Only this Sunday, everything was different.
“When this started, I opened the church 24/7. Because what do you do when bombs are falling on your mother or brother or sister, your friend, what do you do?” Steliac said in an interview. “You pray.”
The Ukrainian American cathedral was overwhelmed with parishioners seeking community after a brutal week in Ukraine. Maryna Kapovska and her sister, Polina Olson, pray for their parents, who stayed in Kyiv even after the conflict had begun.
“It's definitely really hard to be so far away from them and know that you're helpless,” Kapovska said.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled their homes since the Russian invasion began, traveling by bus, car and even foot to reach bordering countries where they can settle temporarily or flying out of the region. Ivanna Ivanniv made the unexpected journey with her three young children, landing in the U.S. without her parents, the father of her children or her 11-year-old daughter's “favorite cat," she said.
Still, Ivanniv says she is lucky because she is safe. She joined dozens of others seated in the pews, holding one another, as Ukrainian prayer and song filled the brightly painted room.
“Ukrainians are very united right now. They feel strong because they are united with love to their motherland,” Ivanniv said. “But we need help."
Durbin wants Temporary Protected Status for 29,500 Ukrainians in the U.S.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Monday he is requesting that the Biden administration allow Ukrainians in the United States on visas to obtain Temporary Protected Status.
"There are 29,500 Ukrainians in the United States now on visas. We have a letter going out to the president this evening asking for Temporary Protected Status for all of them. They include tourists and students and people working here on visas and that sort of thing. So that is something we could and should do immediately," Durbin, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, told reporters.
"Some of them — the visas have expired and they're supposed to return to Ukraine. That's that is unacceptable under the current circumstances," he said.
The TPS designation can be made by the Secretary of Homeland Security. It does not confer a permanent benefit for recipients but allows them to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
Durbin said he believes Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will sign his letter and that additional Republican senators "are being asked right now."
Facebook parent company blocks Russian state media in E.U.
Facebook's parent company said Monday it would restrict state-affiliated media outlets Russia Today and Sputnik for users in the European Union, in response to an E.U. request.
"We have received requests from a number of Governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state controlled media," Nick Clegg, vice president for global affairs at Meta, said in a statement. "Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at this time."
The restrictive step, sometimes called a geofence, also affects Ukraine, meaning Meta users in the country won't see RT or Sputnik content, the company said. Ukraine is not a member of the European Union.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday that she wanted to "ban the Kremlin's media machine" across the EU.
International Criminal Court to open investigation into Russia over allegations of war crimes
The International Criminal Court will open an investigation into potential war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, prosecutor Karim Khan announced Monday.
The court, located in The Hague, Netherlands, is an independent international body responsible for investigating and trying large-scale international crimes, such as war crimes and genocide.
Based on a preliminary examination of the Russian invasion, Khan said, there is a "reasonable basis" to believe Russia has committed both war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"Given the expansion of the conflict in recent days, it is my intention that this investigation will also encompass any new alleged crimes falling within the jurisdiction of my Office that are committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine," he said in a statement.
First lady Jill Biden wears sunflower mask in honor of Ukraine
The sunflower is Ukraine's national flower.
Biden says Americans don't need to worry about nuclear war
President Joe Biden said on Monday that Americans do not need to be worried about a nuclear war, after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Sunday that he was putting his nuclear forces on high alert.
Asked by reporters as he was leaving a Black History Month event at the White House if Americans should be concerned, Biden responded: "No."
Over the weekend, Biden administration officials said that Putin's choice to put deterrence forces on alert was unnecessary and escalatory, and said that the Russian leader was not under any threat from the U.S., NATO or Ukraine.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC News on Sunday that Putin was "manufacturing threats that don't exist in order to justify further aggression."
Key Democrat backs Biden's opposition to no-fly zone over Ukraine
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told NBC News he supports the Biden administration's decision not to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
"It would invariably require our aircraft to come into contact with Russian aircraft. The possibility of miscalculation or deliberate confrontation would be very serious," Reed said on Monday.
"The other steps the administration is taking — and the incredible fighting skills of the Ukrainians — have made it something where [Russians] don't have as dominant air superiority as one would thing," he said. "And just yesterday, the Germans announced that they were sending several hundred Stinger missiles. And Ukrainians do have an air defense system."
Earlier on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden's opposition to a no-fly zone.
"What that'd require is implementation by the U.S. military. It would essentially mean the U.S. military would be shooting down planes, Russian planes. That is definitely escalatory. That would potentially put us into a place where we're in a military conflict with Russia," Psaki said in an interview on MSNBC. "That is not something the president wants to do."
Belarus national railway says online ticket sales disrupted
The national railway of Belarus has been unable to process online ticket sales, the company announced Monday, a day after hacktivists vowed to attack it. It is unclear whether the ticket sales issue was related to the hacktivists' efforts.
The hackers, who claimed to be from a group that calls itself Cyber Partisans, have conducted several cyberattacks in recent months against the Belarusian government, led by Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko.
On Sunday, the Cyber Partisans claimed on their Telegram channel that they had hacked Belarusian Railway in order to slow the deployment of Belarusian troops en route to join Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Cyber Partisans claimed in January to have hacked the railway.
Hungary won't allow weapons for Ukraine to cross its territory
Hungary will not send troops or weapons to Ukraine and will not allow lethal weapons to transit its territory in order to keep the country safe, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Monday during a visit to Kosovo.
"The reason for making this decision is that such deliveries might become targets of hostile military action and ... we have to ensure the security of Hungary ... that we are not getting involved in that war," Szijjarto said after meeting Kosovo Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla.
While Hungary is a member of both NATO and the European Union, its prime minister, Viktor Orban, is a close ally of Putin's who met with him in Moscow at the beginning of February. At the time, he said "Russia’s demands for security guarantees" from Ukraine are "normal and should be the basis for negotiations. And I agree with that."
He condemned Russia's “military action” after it began, but said his country would not send military aid to Ukraine, which shares a border with Hungary. Notoriously anti-immigration, he also declared that he would allow Ukrainian refugees to be given temporary protection in Hungary. "Everyone fleeing Ukraine will find a friend in the Hungarian state," Orban said Sunday.
Heavy shelling hits civilian areas in Ukraine's second-largest city as Russia steps up assault
Russia hit residential areas of Ukraine’s second-largest city with heavy shelling Monday, according to Ukrainian officials, an apparent escalation of the Kremlin’s assault just as officials from both sides met for peace talks.
Videos shared on social media showed explosions across Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people, shaking apartment buildings and sending smoke billowing into the air. Others showed bodies lying outside apartment buildings and fires burning in the street. NBC News spoke with a resident who spoke of hiding in a bomb shelter during the barrage.
Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian interior ministry adviser, wrote on Facebook that there were "dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded." He posted a video, saying "this horror must be seen by the whole world."
NBC News has verified the videos as authentic but has not confirmed the number of casualties from the incident.
Half a million Ukrainians are fleeing their country. See where they're going.
The head of the U.N. refugee agency on Monday said that more than 500,000 people had fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began last week — and more than half had gone to neighboring Poland.
Poland has accepted the most Ukrainians, at 281,000, a global spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency told NBC News on Monday. Hungary has taken in nearly 85,000 refugees, while Moldova, Romania and Slovakia have each accepted 30,000 to around 36,000. Close to 35,000 have fled to other European countries.
Zelenskyy signs application for Ukraine to join the European Union
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed an application Monday for Ukraine to join the European Union.
"Our goal is to stand alongside all Europeans and, most importantly, to stand on their level," Zelenskyy said about Ukraine's effort to join the E.U. in a speech Monday.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal tweeted a photo after Zelenskyy signed the document.
Ukraine's ambassador to the E.U., Matti Maasikas, also tweeted a photo showing a close-up of the application.
There are certain criteria that countries wishing to join the E.U. need to meet including having stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and protection of minorities. The country must also have a functioning market economy and the ability to take on and implement obligations of membership.
FIFA, UEFA suspend Russia from soccer competitions including the World Cup
The international governing body for soccer, FIFA, and the governing body for European soccer, UEFA, announced Monday that all Russian teams are suspended from participating in both FIFA and UEFA competitions.
The suspension applies to both national representative teams or club teams, their statement said. The decision means Russia can no longer qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
"Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine," FIFA and UEFA said. "Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people."
Twitter announces it's adding labels to content from Russian state-affiliated media
Twitter announced Monday that it's adding labels to tweets that share links to Russian state-affiliated media websites.
The announcement was shared by Yoel Roth, head of site integrity at the social media giant, who said that Twitter is also "taking steps to significantly reduce the circulation of this content."
"We’ll roll out these labels to other state-affiliated media outlets in the coming weeks," Roth added.
Roth shared an image displaying what a warning label would look like if someone, for example, shares a link to RT, a Russian-state TV network.
Mayor of Kyiv suburb Brovary says air raid took place, wounded individuals
An air raid was carried out in a small city near Kyiv, wounding multiple people, the town's mayor said in a Facebook post.
"A few minutes ago, an air raid took place on the outskirts of Brovary towards Kyiv. There are wounded. Stay in the shelters!," Brovary Mayor Ihor Sapozhko said in the post.
Top Zelenskyy adviser: Russia 'extremely biased' during talks
Most Russian troops at the border now inside Ukraine, U.S. official says
About 75 percent of the combat power that Russia had amassed at the Ukraine border is now inside the country, a senior U.S. Department of Defense official said Monday.
Russia's main objectives appear to be the capital, Kyiv, as well as the city of Kharkiv, the official said, adding the Kremlin's advance on Kyiv remains slowed. Russian troops have advanced about 3 miles (5 kilometers) in the last 24 hours, and are still about 15 miles outside the city, the official said.
The official said the U.S. expects Russia will try to encircle Kyiv in the coming days, and is trying to do the same with Kharkiv, which has already seen heavy fighting in and around the city. The official said the U.S. believes all the troops in Ukraine are Russian, and no soldiers from Belarus, which has allied with Russia, are involved.
The official said there has been no significant new naval activity in the area, and the airspace over Ukraine remains contested, with air dominance shifting back and forth between the two countries.
Russia has launched more than 380 missiles at Ukraine since the attack began, the official said, and there's been no evidence of any change in Russia's nuclear posture, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement Sunday that he was putting his country's nuclear deterrent forces on high alert.
The U.S. has seen no “appreciable or noticeable muscle movements” of Russian nuclear forces, and “we remain comfortable and confident in our own strategic deterrence posture.”
Ukraine-Russia talks have concluded
The Russian delegation says discussions with Ukraine have concluded.
Leonid Slutsky, the head of the Russian parliament’s international affairs committee, speaking on Russia 24 from Belarus, said, "The talks have just finished."
“The Ukrainian delegation was prepared to listen and get deep into details," said Slutsky. "We were not sure if the conversation would work, but it did."
In the lead-up to the talks at the Belarusian border, Ukraine said that it would push for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country.
Facing widespread condemnation, Russia continues to blame Ukraine
Facing widespread criticism at the U.N. General Assembly's rare emergency special session, Russia's ambassador placed blame on Ukraine for the violence.
"Mr. President, I wish to state that the Russian Federation did not begin these hostilities, the hostilities were unleashed by Ukraine against its own residents, the residents of Donbas and all of those who are dissenters and Russia is seeking to end this war," said the representative.
The representative said Russia does not support the draft resolution to condemn Russia’s actions being handled by the General Assembly as opposed to the U.N. Security Council, which voted in favor on Sunday.
"We're guided by the fact that that this measure proposes that we register that the Security Council failed to comply to uphold its main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and at the same time, there was not even a hint at an attempt to find a constructive solution at the Security Council, attempt to circumvent the position of the Russian Federation, to disregard the position of the Russian Federation runs counter to the very bedrock of the United Nations," said the representative.
"There's a need to find common ground, regardless of our Western partners attempts to avoid this, including when they disregarded our legitimate concerns in connection with NATO policy and Western countries' breach of the core principles of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] on indivisibility of security," he continued.
Roman Abramovich, Chelsea soccer team's Russian oligarch owner, to take part in peace talks
Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who owns the British soccer powerhouse Chelsea F.C., said Monday he'll play an active role in efforts to broker peace in Ukraine.
"I can confirm that Roman Abramovich was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution, and that he has been trying to help ever since," an Abramovich representative said in a statement to NBC News.
"Considering what is at stake, we would ask for your understanding as to why we have not commented on neither the situation as such nor his involvement."
Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, announced Saturday that he was transferring stewardship of the club to its charitable foundation. But he's been under intense pressure to do or say more about Russia's unprovoked invasion of its western neighbor.
Ukraine's U.N. ambassador shares harrowing final text a Russian soldier sent to his mom
In a powerful moment in front of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, Ukraine's U.N. ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya read aloud the final text exchange that a Russian soldier had with his mother before he was killed.
The soldier's mother had texted asking how her son was, why it had been so long since he had responded and inquiring whether he was still in training exercises, Kyslytsya said, reading texts in Russian from a screenshot.
"Mom, I'm no longer in Crimea. I'm not in training sessions," her son wrote back, according to Kyslytsya.
When his mother then asked where he was, explaining that his father wanted to send him a package, the soldier sent what would be his last text "several moments before he was killed," Kyslytsya said.
"Mama, I'm in Ukraine. There is a real war raging here. I'm afraid. We are bombing all of the cities together, even targeting civilians. We were told that they would welcome us and they are falling under our armored vehicles, throwing themselves onto the wheels and not allowing us to pass," he read. "They call us fascists, Mama. This is so hard."
Photo: Destroyed school in Kharkiv
Playground equipment in front of a school destroyed as a result of fighting not far from the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday.
Bulgarian prime minister fires top official who would not describe Ukraine invasion as war
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov on Monday fired Defense Minister Stefan Yanev for his reluctance to describe the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a war, reiterating that Sofia would speak in one voice with the European Union.
Petkov said his centrist coalition government would ask parliament on Tuesday to approve Yanev's dismissal and appoint Todor Tagarev, who was a caretaker defense minister in 2013, to the post.
"My defense minister cannot use the word operation instead of the word war. You cannot call it an operation when thousands of soldiers from the one and the other side are already killed," Petkov said in a televised statement.
"The Bulgarian interest is not in bending our heads down ... When we see something we do not agree with, something so obvious, we cannot keep quiet," Petkov said.
Bulgaria is a member of the E.U. and NATO but many in the Balkan country - which was the closest communist satellite of the Soviet Union during the Cold War era - feel a strong cultural and historical affinity with Russia.
French president Macron holds separate calls with Putin, Zelenskyy
French President Emmanuel Macron held separate phone calls with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts on Monday in a bid to stop the bloodshed in Ukraine.
Macron spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy "several" times and also had an hour-and-a-half long phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he urged to "end the Russian offensive against Ukraine," Macron's office said.
Macron "reaffirmed the need to implement an immediate ceasefire" in his call with Putin, and called for a "halt to all strikes and attacks against civilians and places of residence" while discussions are going on between the two countries.
Putin "confirmed his willingness" to do so, Macron's office said, but Ukraine said its second-largest city was coming under attack from heavy Russian shelling even as negotiations between the nations were underway at the border of Belarus.
Macron also proposed that he and Putin stay in contact in the coming days "to prevent the situation from worsening," and Putin agreed, Macron's office said.
Macron called Putin at Zelenskyy's request, his office said, and praised the Ukrainian president for "the sense of responsibility" in trying to move forward with negotiations "even though Ukraine is being attacked by Russia."
Switzerland joins Russia sanctions, breaking neutral status
Switzerland announced on Monday it will sanction Russia over the war in Ukraine, breaking its traditional neutral status.
"Switzerland reaffirms its solidarity with Ukraine and its people; it will be delivering relief supplies for people who have fled to Poland," Switzerland's federal council said in a statement Monday.
The measures would match those of the European Union, of which Switzerland is not a member.
The federal council said it would also close its airspace to all flights from Russia and "all movements of aircraft with Russian markings," bar people close to Putin from entering Switzerland, and send relief supplies to Poland to help with settling Ukrainian refugees.
IOC calls for global sporting ban on Russia, Belarus
The International Olympic Committee has recommended banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the Games over Russia's attack on Ukraine.
In a statement Monday, the IOC's executive board said that it took the decision despite the Olympic movement's commitment "not to punish athletes for the decisions of their government if they are not actively participating in them."
"While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country," it said.
"This is a dilemma which cannot be solved," the board said as it announced that after carefully considering the situation, it had come to a conclusion with a "heavy heart."
In its statement, the board strongly urged the International Sports Federations and organizers of other sports events worldwide 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."
FIFA, soccer's world governing body, said Sunday that Russia could participate in World Cup games but would could not compete as Russia, or use its flag or national anthem.
No big cyberattacks, but digital skirmishes abound
Direct, crippling cyberattacks have so far been largely absent since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, but both sides have adopted other digital tactics to get an edge.
Russia and its ally Belarus have continued to deploy disinformation operations, including creating social media influence campaigns to convince Ukrainians to distrust their government.
On Monday, Ukraine's Cyber Police said that an unidentified individual or group has been sending emails falsely claiming to be evacuation announcements from the country's national law enforcement agency. Meanwhile, Ukraine has taken the unprecedented step of directly calling for hacktivists around the world to knock particular Russian sites offline and search for software vulnerabilities that could help Ukraine's war effort.
A young patient lies down on a sofa in the hallway of the basement at the Okhmadet Children's Hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday.
Western firms head for the exit in Russia as sanctions tighten
Energy giant BP, global bank HSBC and the world's biggest aircraft leasing firm AerCap joined a growing list of companies looking to exit Russia on Monday, as Western sanctions tightened the screws on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
The West has sought to punish Russia with a raft of measures, including closing airspace to Russian aircraft, shutting out some Russian banks from the SWIFT global financial network and restricting Moscow's ability to deploy its $630 billion foreign reserves.
Russia's economy was already reeling on Monday. The ruble plunged as much as 30 percent to an all-time low, while the central bank doubled its key interest rate to 20 percent, kept stock markets and derivative markets closed and temporarily banned brokers from selling securities held by foreigners.
BP, Russia's biggest foreign investor, abruptly announced at the weekend that it was abandoning its 20 percent stake in state-controlled Rosneft at a cost of up to $25 billion, cutting the British firm's oil and gas reserves in half and reducing BP's production by a third.
BP's decision, following talks with the British government, shone a spotlight on other Western firms with stakes in Russian oil and gas projects, such as U.S. firm ExxonMobil, France's TotalEnergies and Britain's Shell.
Equinor, the energy firm majority owned by the Norwegian state, said it would start divesting its joint ventures in Russia, although a spokesperson added: "It will take some time to untangle a business developed over decades."
Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, will also divest its Russian assets, worth about $2.8 billion, while Australia's sovereign wealth fund said it planned to wind down its exposure to Russian-listed companies.
U.S. suspends operations at Minsk embassy, authorizes voluntary departure of nonemergency staff in Moscow
The U.S. Department of State has suspended operations at its embassy in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, and has authorized the voluntary departure of nonemergency employees and family members at its embassy in Moscow.
In a statement Monday, the State Department said it had taken both steps "due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine."
"The Department of State continually adjusts its posture at embassies and consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, and the health situation," the department said.
"We ultimately have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens, and that includes our U.S. government personnel and their dependents serving around the world," it said.
The embassy moves come as Ukraine officials meet with Russian counterparts at the Belarusian border for negotiations on Monday.
A woman reacts next to a residential building, which locals said was damaged by recent shelling, in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine, on Monday.
Green Day cancels Moscow concert
Green Day announced Sunday that the band would not play its May 29 concert at Spartak Stadium in Moscow.
In a statement posted to Instagram, the band wrote: “With heavy hearts, in light of current events we feel it is necessary to cancel our upcoming show in Moscow at Spartak Stadium."
"We are aware that this moment is not about stadium rock shows, it’s much bigger than that. But we also know that rock and roll is forever and we feel confident there will be a time and a place for us to return in the future. Stay safe," the statement said.
Kremlin spokesman: Russia has 'potential to compensate for the damage' from sanctions
Russia can overcome the damage from heavy sanctions imposed in response to the country's continued attack on Ukraine, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said Monday.
As negotiations between Ukraine and Russia took place on the Belarusian border Monday, Peskov said he would not comment on the "aim of the negotiations."
"Let's wait and see what they bring," he said, adding: "We regret that the negotiations didn't start a day ago, or last night."
Speaking before the U.S. announced new sanctions on the Russian central bank this morning, Peskov acknowledged that Russia's "economic reality" has changed, with the value of the ruble plummeting Monday and Moscow's central bank raising interest rates from 9.5 percent to 20 percent in a bid to protect people's savings.
However, he said, "there is no reason to doubt the effectiveness and reliability of the central bank."
"The Russian Federation was preparing for the possible sanctions in advance. Even to the harshest sanctions," he said.
His comments came as Japan announced it would join international sanctions on the Russian central bank by limiting transactions, along with other measures.
Peskov said Russia would be "dealing with the issues as they come."
"The sanctions are heavy, problematic, but Russia has the potential to compensate for the damage," he said.
Asked about Vladimir Putin's own attitude toward personal sanctions, Peskov said the Russian president was "rather indifferent."
He also repeated warnings about international interference in the conflict, characterizing the European Union's response to Russia's invasion as "measures of an unfriendly, hostile nature against us."
"From our point of view, the supply of weapons, armaments and ammunition to the territory of Ukraine can and will become extremely dangerous as a stabilizing factor," he said, warning that such efforts could have "much more dangerous consequences."
Russia accused of heavy shelling in Kharkiv
Russia has been accused of carrying out a massive shelling in Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, with shocking video purportedly showing the assault.
Sharing video appearing to show flashes in the sky as smoke fills the air, Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said "Kharkiv has just been massively shelled from Gradov."
"Dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded! This horror must be seen by the whole world! Death to the invaders!" he said.
NBC News has verified the video, but has not confirmed reports of any casualties from the apparent attack.
U.S. expands sanctions on Russia's central bank, prohibiting American deals and freezing assets
The United States is expanding sanctions on Russia’s central bank in a move that will block Americans from doing any business with it and freezing any assets it holds in the U.S.
In a statement Monday, the Treasury said the decision would apply to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation.
It said U.S. was also adding Russian Direct Investment Fund Chief Executive Officer Kirill Dmitriev — who it referred to as a "known Putin ally" — to the sanctions list.
“The unprecedented action we are taking today will significantly limit Russia’s ability to use assets to finance its destabilizing activities, and target the funds Putin and his inner circle depend on to enable his invasion of Ukraine,” Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen said in a statement. “Today, in coordination with partners and allies, we are following through on key commitments to restrict Russia’s access to these valuable resources.”
It comes after the U.S., Canada and the E.U. announced they would each be restricting Russia's ability to use its central bank reserves.
Long lines at ATMs in eastern city of Dnipro
DNIPRO, Ukraine — Although the city of Dnipro in eastern Ukraine is calm, getting cash is still a problem. Many people are roaming around trying different cash machines, walking away with nothing shaking their heads.
NBC News spotted an ATM being refilled — a line of 20 people formed almost instantly. There is a 1,000 hryvnia ($33) limit per transaction. Those who try for more than withdrawal are met with complaints from others in line.
NATO secretary general: Alliance won't move into Ukraine amid conflict
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that the alliance will not move into Ukraine, either on the ground or in the air, as Russia's invasion continues.
Speaking with NBC News in an interview in Brussels Monday morning, Stoltenberg reiterated his support for Ukraine and said NATO allies continued to provide more anti-tank missiles, military aid and financial assistance.
He also said Ukraine appeared to be providing a much tougher resistance than Russia likely expected.
"I think that they underestimated the resistance they were going to meet and that's why they're making less progress, why they are advancing much slower and why they have higher rates of attrition or casualties than expected," he said.
Stoltenberg said he would not discuss specific numbers around casualties, but said "there is no doubt that Russia has suffered much more casualties than they expected under the whole operation is moving much slower than planned."
At the same time, he said: "We see now a new wave coming in from Russia and from Belarus, with heavy armor, with long range artillery."
"It's very unpredictable and fluid situation," he said.
Still, he maintained: "We have no intentions of moving into Ukraine neither on the ground or in the airspace."
"I think we have to understand that this is a brutal conflict that is taking place in Ukraine now," he said. "At the same time, we have a responsibility to make sure that this doesn't spiral out of control that escalates even further into concern for full-fledged war in Europe involving NATO allies."
He also said that NATO "has not changed the readiness level of our nuclear forces" after Russian President Vladimir Putin took the extraordinary action on Sunday of ordering his nuclear deterrent forces to be on alert.
More than half a million people have now fled Ukraine, U.N. refugee agency says
The number of people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine passed 500,000 on Monday, according to the head of the U.N.'s refugee agency.
Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, confirmed the number in a tweet, less than 24 hours after he put the figure at 368,000. The agency said in a report on Saturday that the final figure could reach 5 million.
People are mostly entering neighboring countries including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, with other European nations offering asylum.
Grandi said in a statement last week, as hostilities began in Ukraine: "The humanitarian consequences on civilian populations will be devastating. There are no winners in war, but countless lives will be torn apart."
Works by famous artist Maria Prymachenko burned during invasion, Ukraine says
About 25 works by celebrated Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko have been burned during Russia's invasion, Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday.
In a tweet also showing an image of one of Prymachenko's famous works, 1977's "Two-headed chicken," the ministry said the paintings had been stored at the Ivankiv Museum in the Kyiv region.
Video published on Telegram appears to show the museum on fire. The video has not been verified by NBC News.
Prymachenko, the foreign affairs ministry said, "created world-famous masterpieces," with her "special gift and talent" captivating the likes of Pablo Picasso.
Police officers check passengers from a suspicious car in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Monday.
This Maxar Technologies satellite image taken and released on Sunday shows the southern end of a deployment of Russian ground forces, moving troops and equipment, in Ivankiv, around 50 miles northwest of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
Another Maxar image, also taken Sunday, shows a damaged hangar at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, where Russian forces have met fierce resistance.
Nine out of ten of Ukrainians support Zelenskyy's defense of country, poll finds
Some 90 percent of Ukrainians support President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's defense the country against Russia, while most believe they will be able to repel Russia's attack, a new poll has found.
The poll conduct by the Rating Sociological group, a Ukrainian non-governmental polling organization, found that 70 percent of respondents said they believed Ukraine would be able to fend off Russia's invasion; 16 percent said they were not sure.
The poll, which asked 2,000 people between Feb. 26 and Feb. 27, also found that the level of confidence in the Ukrainian Armed Forces had grown significantly over the span of a week, with the highest level of confidence in the west and in the center of the country, at around 75 to 78 percent.
According to the data, support for Zelenskyy's actions has tripled since Dec. 2021.
Ukraine's 'staunch resistance' is hampering Russian advance, Britain says
Britain's Ministry of Defense said Monday that Russia's ground forces remain 18 miles north of Kyiv, having been slowed down by Ukrainian fighters' "staunch resistance."
In a tweet described as an "intelligence update," the ministry said that Hostomel airfield near the capital was a "key Russian objective for day one of the conflict" but remains under Ukrainian control.
It added that "logistical failures" were frustrating the Russian advance.
Zelenskyy tells Russian forces to 'save your lives and leave,' says prisoners with combat experience can join the fight
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday warned Russian forces to save their lives and retreat as he said Ukrainians are standing firm in the fight against Russia's invasion.
Marking the "fifth day of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine," Zelenskyy hailed Ukrainians' "inspirational" response and said they had shown what they are "really capable of...to the fullest."
Addressing Russian forces, Zelenskyy said in a video posted to his Telegraph channel: "Don't trust your commanders, don't trust your propagandists. Just save your lives. Leave," he warned.
The Ukrainian leader said his government had also made a "morally difficult" decision to allow incarcerated people "with real combat experience" to be released from custody. He said they would be able to "compensate from their guilt in the flashpoints."
"When I went to the presidency, I said that each of us is the president. Because we are all responsible for our country. For our beautiful Ukraine. And now it has happened that each of us is a warrior," he said.
"And I am sure that each of us will win."
Local residents carry the Ukrainian flag to put at the newly built checkpoint by the local community in Hushchyntsi, around 140 miles southwest of Kyiv on Sunday.
Ukrainian delegation arrives as talks with Russia set to begin
A Ukrainian delegation has arrived at the Belarusian border for talks with Russia.
In a statement on Telegram, Ukraine's Parliament said the delegation included a number of Ukrainian officials, including David Arakhamia of the Servant of the People faction, Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine's defense minister, Mykola Tochytsky, Ukraine's deputy minister for foreign affairs, Mykhailo Podoliak, a presidential adviser, and others.
Ukraine's Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, said the main focus of negotiations would be Ukraine's call for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine.
Talks between Ukraine and Russia were expected to begin at around 9 a.m. GMT (4 a.m. ET).
Posting a photo of a long conference table Monday morning, Belarus' Ministry of Foreign Affairs said "everything is ready to host Russia-Ukraine negotiations."
The talks come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had agreed for a delegation to meet with Russian counterparts on the Belarus border "without preconditions" after speaking with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted "responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory will remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks and return,” Zelenskyy's office said.
Facebook, Twitter remove disinformation accounts targeting Ukrainians
Facebook and Twitter removed two anti-Ukrainian “covert influence operations” over the weekend, one tied to Russia and another with connections to Belarus, the companies said.
One of the operations, a propaganda campaign featuring a website pushing anti-Ukraine talking points, was an offshoot of a known Russian disinformation operation. A Facebook spokesperson said it used computer-generated faces to bolster the credibility of fake columnists across several platforms, including Instagram.
The other campaign used hacked accounts to push similar anti-Ukraine propaganda and was tied to a known Belarusian hacking group.
Disinformation experts warned that Russia is expected to continue to try to manipulate narratives about Ukraine — most notably around the claims made by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Read the full story here.
Ruble falls to historic lows as Russia's central bank hikes interest rates to 20 percent
The Russian ruble tumbled to a record low against the dollar Monday after Western countries announcer harsher sanctions against Russia over the weekend amid its invasion of Ukraine.
The ruble fell to 119.50 per dollar in Asian trading, marking a record low for the currency. It later recovered to around 110 per dollar.
Meanwhile, Russia's central bank set the country's key interest rate at 20 percent from Monday, nearly double its previous rate of 9.5 percent.
"External conditions for the Russian economy have drastically changed," the bank said in a statement. "The increase of the key rate will ensure a rise in deposit rates to levels needed to compensate for the increased depreciation and inflation risks. This is needed to support financial and price stability and protect the savings of citizens from depreciation."
The bank said further key rate decisions would be made "taking into account risks posed by external and domestic conditions and the reaction of financial markets, as well as actual and expected inflation movements relative to the target and economic developments over forecast period."
Deserted streets during the curfew at sunrise on Monday in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Explosions and gunfire were reported around the city on the second night of Russia's invasion.
Canada says Russian airline violated its airspace
Canada accused the Russian airline Aeroflot on Sunday of violating its airspace, hours after Canada and other countries shut their skies to Russian aircraft.
Transport Canada, the country's national transportation agency, said on Twitter that it would review actions leading up to the violation by Aeroflot Flight 111. Data from the website FlightAware showed the Miami-to-Moscow flight passing over eastern Canada.
"We will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action and other measures to prevent future violations," Transport Canada said.
Aeroflot did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside regular business hours.
CEOs of Google, YouTube meet E.U. officials to discuss Ukraine
European officials pressed the CEOs of Google and YouTube on Sunday to take down Russian government messages in response to the conflict in Ukraine.
"Online platforms took unprecedented steps after the Capitol Hill attacks. Surely Russian war #propaganda merits at least the same level of response," Thierry Breton, the E.U.'s internal market commissioner, said on Twitter. He posted a photo of a video meeting he and others had with Google's Sundar Pichai and YouTube's Susan Wojcicki.
Google, which owns YouTube, said in a statement after the call that it was committed to tackling disinformation and that it was already taking unprecedented steps to prevent misuse of its platforms.
"As we said to the Commissioners, our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock and are ready to take further action," the company said.
Reuters reported Sunday that Google had temporarily disabled in Ukraine some Google Maps tools that provide live information about traffic conditions and how busy different places are in response to concerns about the safety of local communities.
"Succession" actor Brian Cox hails Zelenskyy, condemns Russia at SAG Awards
"Succession" star Brian Cox, accepting the statuette for best drama series ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, paid tribute to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin's government.
Cox, surrounded by his "Succession" cast mates, acknowledged that Zelenskyy was a comedian and performer before he took office in 2019. He then blasted the Russian government for placing limits on what artists can say about the conflict.
"They are told, under pain of high treason, that they cannot say a word about Ukraine, and I think that is pretty awful," Cox said from the stage at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California. He called on the audience to celebrate Russians who dare to take a stand against Putin's offensive in a democratic country.
In the crowd, many of Cox's acting peers stood up and applauded.
Russia still has friends, official says, citing China
Russia is not entirely isolated on the international stage, despite widespread sanctions, and it still counts China as a friend, said Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The privately owned Russian news agency Interfax reported early Monday Moscow time that Zakharova was asked in an interview on the Russia-1 TV channel whether Russia still had friends.
"Of course," she said. "Look at the reaction of the world's giants. Those who do not pretend to be giants, but real giants. Well, in particular, China. You see this reaction."
Zakharova blamed Western countries for starting the conflict in Ukraine by stuffing the country with weapons, and she said Ukrainian authorities had "delegitimized themselves" by letting it happen, Interfax reported.
Blasts heard in Kyiv
Blasts were heard in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and in the major city of Kharkiv on Monday morning, Ukraine's State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection said.
Kyiv had been quiet for a few hours before that, it said in a brief statement on the Telegram messaging app.
Russian saboteurs want to bring panic to Kyiv, mayor says
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Sunday that authorities in the city are searching for possible Russian saboteurs who may have entered in disguise.
"They want to make [a] terror attack and to bring the panic to our city," Klitschko said, according to The Associated Press. He described them as small groups of armed troops dressed as civilians.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier that sabotage groups had entered the city of 2.8 million people with the aim of killing government officials.
Klitschko said the presence of possible saboteurs was one reason for residents to obey a curfew. "We try to hunt these people. It will be much easier if nobody is in the street," he said.
He told the AP that nine civilians in Kyiv had been killed, including a child. NBC News has not independently verified those figures.
Dow futures fall as much as 500 points
U.S. stock futures moved lower in overnight trading Sunday as investors grew concerned about the economic ramifications of the fighting between Russia and Ukraine.
Dow futures dropped as much as 500 points. S&P 500 futures fell as much as 2.12 percent, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost as much as 2.37 percent.
U.S. and global equities experienced volatile trading last week as tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated.
The Russian ruble was set to tumble by at least 19 percent, with banks offering it at about 100 rubles per dollar, Reuters reported. It closed Friday at 84 rubles per dollar.
Blinken: U.S. to provide $54 million for 'ordinary Ukrainians'
The U.S. will provide nearly $54 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday.
"It is with the welfare of ordinary Ukrainians in mind that we are announcing the provision of nearly $54 million in humanitarian assistance to those affected by Russia's further invasion," Blinken said in a statement.
The aid, which will go through independent organizations, will be spent on providing food, safe drinking water, shelter, emergency health care, winterization and protection, the State Department said. It brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance in the Russia-Ukraine crisis to $405 million since 2014.
Blinken said U.S. diplomats were working with Ukraine's neighboring countries to keep borders open for refugees and to assist refugees.
"As with any refugee situation, we call on the international community to respond to the needs of those seeking protection in a way consistent with the principle of non-refoulement and our shared obligations under international law," he said. (Non-refoulement is the principle that no one should be returned to a country where they would face irreparable harm.)
E.U. diplomat says Ukraine conflict 'is a defining moment for European history'
The Russia-Ukraine conflict will help to define the history of Europe, Josep Borrell, the E.U.'s foreign policy chief, said Sunday.
"They are unprecedented times because the war is back in our borders. And that's why it is a defining moment for European history," Borrell said at a briefing with reporters, explaining the E.U.'s decision to finance a package of lethal assistance to Ukraine.
He said there had been a "taboo" against the E.U.'s using collective resources to provide arms to a country that's at war with another, but, he said, "Another taboo has fallen these days."
The total package would be more than 556 million Euros, and Poland has agreed to serve as a logistical hub for the delivery of aid.
Zelenskyy, in call with U.K.'s Johnson, says next 24 hours will be 'crucial' for Ukraine
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during a call with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the next 24 hours will be a "crucial period" for Ukraine, according to a readout of the call.
“The Prime Minister said he would do all he could to help ensure defensive aid from the UK and allies reached Ukraine," a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement. "The leaders agreed to continue to stay in close contact and the Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
Johnson also praised Zelenskyy's leadership and lauded the resistance of the Ukrainian people as "heroic."
Kids with cancer shelter in Kyiv hospital basements with limited access to meds, food and water
Kids with cancer and the staff members treating them are huddled in the basements of two children's hospitals in Kyiv with waning access to medication, food and water, an official with Ukraine's largest children's cancer charity said.
Pharmacies and warehouses with medication that the children need have closed down, Yuliya Nogovitsyna, the director of programming for the charity Tabletochki, said in an interview.
The kids have access to only basic forms of chemotherapy, she said. Other treatments have been interrupted, raising concerns that the children could relapse, not achieve remission and grow sicker.
"When we speak about casualties in war, we just count those who are killed in the fighting," Nogovitsyna said. "These children, they have been also killed by it, but slowly, because their treatments are interrupted."
A further challenge is finding drivers to deliver food and water, she said. The hospitals have made deals for food and water, but not many people are willing to drive through the conflict-ravaged city of Kyiv.
A truck taking water to the children Saturday was shot at and the driver has had to shelter at the hospital, she said.
Thirteen children with cancer at the older of the two hospitals are being treated by four doctors, two nurses and two assistant nurses, who have decided to stay there. The basement is humid and moldy, Nogovitsyna said.
The organization hopes to move some of the children by bus to a hospital in Lviv in western Ukraine as soon it is safe. After that, the kids have been offered beds and treatment if they can reach Poland. The logistics remain challenging, however.
"It's not possible to leave Kyiv for the moment — there is a curfew," Nogovitsyna said. "Nobody is allowed to move outside of the buildings because every person will be regarded as an enemy and will be shot."
Ukraine's U.N. ambassador condemns Putin's 'nuclear blackmail' and claims of genocide
Russian President Vladimir Putin has resorted to "nuclear blackmail" and perverted the basis of the international Genocide Convention for his own agenda, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations, said at a public Security Council meeting Sunday.
Kyslytsya detailed attacks in Ukraine on residential areas and the country's infrastructure from "bloody and mad Russian leadership" in his speech to fellow U.N. ambassadors Sunday. He said the world must take Putin's threat of nuclear armament very seriously.
Ukraine has filed a case with the International Court of Justice on the basis of the Genocide Convention and asked the world court to issue provisional measures against Russia, Kyslytsya announced.
"Russia, however, has twisted the concept of genocide and perverted the solemn treaty obligation to prevent and punish genocide," Kyslytsya said. "It has made an absurd and unfounded claim of alleged genocide as a justification and pretext for its own aggression against Ukraine and violation of the sovereignty and human rights of the Ukrainian people."
Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian diplomat assigned to the U.N., denied accusations that Russian armed forces were targeting Ukrainian civilians. He continued to push the narrative that crimes by Ukrainian nationalists were the catalyst for Putin's invasion.
The Russian Federation blocked a previous resolution denouncing Russia's invasion, which Nebenzya said was "imbalanced." He asserted that any attempt to "circumvent" the Russian Federation's position on the Security Council would undermine the U.N. Charter.
"This is precisely why the council has the vested right for permanent members to block a decision," Nebenzya said. "This is not a privilege. This is a mechanism for ensuring the balance of interests, which is of such paramount importance for the entire world, and through this balance of interest for the achievement of global stability."
U.S. citizens should consider leaving Russia immediately, State Department says
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow warned U.S. citizens Sunday that they should consider leaving the country immediately as more countries impose airspace restrictions on Russia.
"An increasing number of airlines are canceling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines," the embassy said in a statement. "U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available."
The embassy added that U.S. citizens should have a contingency plan "that does not rely on U.S. government assistance." Americans also should monitor local and international media, keep in contact with family and friends, stay alert of their surroundings when in public, review security plans and always carry their passports with current Russian visas, the embassy said.
Since January, the State Department has said Americans should not travel to Russia because of "ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens, the embassy's limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law."
Ukrainians pack church for first Sunday service since Russian invasion
The St. Paraskeva church in the Ukrainian town of Kalynivka was packed with people for the first Sunday service since the Russian invasion.
"Bullets kill people, children die, these explosions. This is crazy," the Orthodox priest told the congregation.
As she left the church after the service, Svitlana Khvostoriezova, 64, said she had heard sirens as she walked to attend the service but that they had not deterred her from attending.
She added that she hid at least three or four times a day in the basement of the 10-story building where she lives in the small town, around 150 miles southwest of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.
There, she said, she was joined by five or six families, including one with a 3-month-old baby. It used to be a hookah bar, she said.