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Peace talks ended between Russia and Ukraine, no breakthrough as shelling continues

Russia and Ukraine met for talks on the Belarusian border Monday morning.

This event is over. For more Russia-Ukraine coverage read here.

283d ago / 5:01 PM UTC

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.”

283d ago / 4:54 PM UTC

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.

283d ago / 4:52 PM UTC

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.

283d ago / 4:51 PM UTC

Roman Abramovich, Chelsea soccer team's Russian oligarch owner, to take part in peace talks

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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.

Russian billionaire and businessman Roman Abramovich attends meetin at the Kremlin in Moscow on Dec. 19, 2016.
Russian billionaire and businessman Roman Abramovich attends meetin at the Kremlin in Moscow on Dec. 19, 2016.Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images file

"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.

283d ago / 4:41 PM UTC

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."

283d ago / 4:36 PM UTC

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.

A school destroyed as a result of fighting not far from the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 28, 2022.
A school destroyed as a result of fighting not far from the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday.Sergey Bobok / AFP - Getty Images
283d ago / 4:02 PM UTC

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.

283d ago / 3:50 PM UTC

French president Macron holds separate calls with Putin, Zelenskyy

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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."

283d ago / 3:20 PM UTC

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.

283d ago / 2:55 PM UTC

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.

283d ago / 2:42 PM UTC

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.

283d ago / 2:16 PM UTC

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.

Image: Children patients whose treatments are underway stay in one of the shelters of Okhmadet Children's Hospital
Umit Bektas / Reuters
283d ago / 2:12 PM UTC

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.

283d ago / 1:51 PM UTC

283d ago / 1:41 PM UTC

U.S. suspends operations at Minsk embassy, authorizes voluntary departure of nonemergency staff in Moscow

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 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.  

283d ago / 1:25 PM UTC

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.

Image: A woman reacts next to a damaged residential building in Donetsk
Alexander Ermochenko / Reuters
283d ago / 1:22 PM UTC

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. 

283d ago / 1:20 PM UTC

Kremlin spokesman: Russia has 'potential to compensate for the damage' from sanctions

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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." 

283d ago / 1:12 PM UTC

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. 

283d ago / 1:05 PM UTC

283d ago / 12:49 PM UTC

283d ago / 12:30 PM UTC

U.S. expands sanctions on Russia's central bank, prohibiting American deals and freezing assets

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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. 

283d ago / 12:13 PM UTC

Long lines at ATMs in eastern city of Dnipro

Dnipro locals prepare molotov cocktails
Dnipro locals gather at Rocket Park in the center of the Ukrainian city on Sunday, four days since the Russian military invaded the country.Andrea Carrubba / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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.

283d ago / 11:53 AM UTC

NATO secretary general: Alliance won't move into Ukraine amid conflict

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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. 

 

283d ago / 11:48 AM UTC

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283d ago / 11:43 AM UTC

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."

283d ago / 11:21 AM UTC

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. 

283d ago / 10:57 AM UTC

Police officers check passengers from a suspicious car in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Monday.

Image: Russian invasion of Ukraine continues
Umit Bektas / Reuters
283d ago / 10:46 AM UTC

283d ago / 10:34 AM UTC

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.

Image: UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
Maxar Technologies / AFP - Getty Images

Another Maxar image, also taken Sunday, shows a damaged hangar at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, where Russian forces have met fierce resistance.

Image: A satellite image shows a damaged hangar at Antonov Airport in Hostomel
Maxar Technologies / Reuters
283d ago / 10:16 AM UTC

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. 

283d ago / 10:08 AM UTC

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.

283d ago / 9:43 AM UTC

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."

283d ago / 9:35 AM UTC

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.

Local people gather to defend their villages
Oksana Parafeniuk / for NBC News
Local people gather to defend their villages
Oksana Parafeniuk / for NBC News
283d ago / 9:15 AM UTC

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.

283d ago / 9:08 AM UTC

Facebook, Twitter remove disinformation accounts targeting Ukrainians

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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

283d ago / 8:13 AM UTC

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."

283d ago / 8:00 AM UTC

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.

Image: Russia Attacks Ukraine
Pierre Crom / Getty Images
284d ago / 4:24 AM UTC

284d ago / 3:47 AM UTC

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. 

284d ago / 3:22 AM UTC

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.

284d ago / 2:52 AM UTC

"Succession" actor Brian Cox hails Zelenskyy, condemns Russia at SAG Awards

Image: 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards
The cast of "Succession" at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Santa Monica, Calif.MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

"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.

284d ago / 2:44 AM UTC

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. 

284d ago / 2:40 AM UTC

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. 

284d ago / 2:06 AM UTC

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.

284d ago / 1:36 AM UTC

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.

284d ago / 1:02 AM UTC

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284d ago / 12:39 AM UTC

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.)

284d ago / 12:04 AM UTC

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.

284d ago / 11:58 PM UTC

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