Russian offensive drives mass displacement, UN refugee agency says, as battles rage nationwide.
- Ukrainian officials are preparing for a Russian assault on the capital, Kyiv, as the full-scale attack enters a second day.
- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says 137 people have been killed so far, including civilians.
- The UN’s refugee agency says about 100,000 Ukrainians have been displaced, with thousands fleeing to nearby European states.
- Western powers have announced sweeping sanctions on Russia.
- Thousands of Russians have staged anti-war protests in cities across the country.
More than 50,000 Ukrainians flee country in 48 hours: UN
More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled their country since the start of the Russian invasion, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees has said.
Filippo Grandi said the majority of those who had left had headed to neighbouring Poland and Moldova.
“Heartfelt thanks to the governments and people of countries keeping their borders open and welcoming refugees,” he tweeted.
Grandi’s update came after the UN refugee agency said on Thursday that an estimated 100,000 Ukrainians had already been internally displaced.
Russia puts ‘partial restriction’ on Facebook access
Russian authorities have announced access to Facebook will be partially restricted after the social media network banned the accounts of several Kremlin-backed media over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it had demanded that Facebook lift the bans it had on Thursday placed on state news agency RIA Novosti, state TV channel Zvezda, and pro-Kremlin news sites Lenta.Ru and Gazeta.Ru. The agency said Facebook didn’t reinstate the media outlets.
Roskomnadzor cast its action as a move “to protect Russian media.” It said Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s office found Facebook “complicit in violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, as well as the rights and freedoms of Russian nationals”.
It did not clarify what exactly the move means.
Russia banned from Eurovision song contest
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has banned Russia from taking part in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, saying the country’s involvement would “bring the competition into disrepute”.
Finland said earlier on Friday it would not send contestants to the Eurovision 2022 final if Russia was allowed to participate, while other European public broadcasters, including Ukraine’s, called for Russia to be expelled from the decades-old and hugely popular song contest.
Amid Russian bombing, Ukrainians seek shelter in a church
On the first day of Russia’s invasion, in an evangelical church in Mariupol, people gathered for safety and to pray for Ukraine as fighting raged nearby.
Lone Ukrainian civilian attempts to stop Russian military convoy
A video being shared on social media appears to show a lone Ukrainian civilian trying to block a large Russian armoured column of military vehicles.
The footage, captured in the southern city of Kherson, has echoes of Tiananmen Square’s so-called “Tank Man” and comes as battles continue to rage throughout the country.
Russia claims Kyiv has gone silent on talks
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said there is a “pause” in contact between Moscow and Kyiv over possible in-person talks between the two sides following a discussion over where any such meeting should take place.
Peskov said Moscow had offered to hold the talks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, but Kyiv had instead proposed Warsaw as a venue.
He said the Ukrainians had then taken what he described as quite a long time-out. During that pause, he claimed Ukrainian “nationalists” had deployed missile systems in residential areas within the country’s big cities, mirroring claims made by President Vladimir Putin.
Peskov did not provide evidence to support his assertion but said it was a very dangerous development. There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian authorities.
Ukrainians build makeshift roadblocks to stall Russian advance
Some Ukrainians are building makeshift roadblocks in a bid to stall Russian troops.
Vladimir, a former coalmine owner who fled Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk for Kyiv in 2014, when Russian-backed separatists took control of swaths of territory there, is among them.
The 47-year-old’s fortification, which features several concrete slabs and about a dozen sandbags, stands in the town of Rzhyshchiv, on the outskirts of Kyiv.
It is manned by six men, including Vladimir, who declined to give his surname. Two of those guarding the site are armed with hunting rifles.
“We won’t stop tanks with it, but we can stop other vehicles,” he told Al Jazeera, adding he had paid for the supplies from his own pocket.
Dozens of similar roadblocks have reportedly sprung up around the capital and elsewhere in Ukraine.
Curfew rolled out in Lviv: Report
Ukraine’s western city of Lviv has introduced a curfew, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reports, citing a city official.
“The curfew is introduced from 22:00 to 06:00. We will provide passes to residents of the region employed in critical infrastructure,” Interfax quoted the head of local military administration Maxim Kozitsky as saying.
Thousands of Ukrainians have fled west in a bid to avoid Russia’s assault, which has targeted Ukraine from the north, south and east.
Russia suspended from Council of Europe
Russia has been suspended from the Council of Europe, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio says.
The Council of Europe was formed after World War II to protect human rights and the rule of law across the continent. It is separate from the European Union.
“The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, of which Italy holds the presidency, has taken the decision to exclude the Russian Federation from its membership,” Di Maio said in a statement.
“Italy considers this to be a necessary measure in light of Russia’s unacceptable military aggression against Ukraine, which constitutes a serious violation of international law,” he added.
‘Take power into your own hands,’ Putin urges Ukraine’s armed forces
Putin has called on Ukraine’s military to seize power from Zelenskyy’s government.
“I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: do not allow neo-Nazis and Ukrainian radical nationalists to use your children, wives and elders as human shields,” Putin said at a televised meeting with Russia’s security council.
“Take power into your own hands, it will be easier for us to reach agreement,” he added.
Putin’s remarks came hours after Zelenskyy urged his country’s forces to hold their ground amid Russia’s offensive. “Stay strong, you are everything we have got,” the Ukrainian leader told troops while delivering a video address to the nation dressed in military uniform.
Ukrainian official says 2,800 Russian troops killed
Ukraine’s deputy defence minister has claimed that approximately 2,800 Russian troops have been killed in fighting so far.
Ukrainian forces had also destroyed about 80 Russian tanks, 516 armoured combat vehicles, 10 aircraft and seven helicopters as of 3pm local time (13:00 GMT), Hanna Malyar said in a statement posted on Facebook.
There was no immediate response to the claims from Moscow, and Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.
Germany says EU will ‘severely’ sanction Putin, Lavrov
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says new EU sanctions against Russia will personally target Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for their responsibility in the invasion of Ukraine.
“They are responsible for the death of innocent people in Ukraine. They are responsible that the international system is trampled and we as Europeans do not accept that,” Baerbock said as she arrived for a meeting with her EU counterparts at the bloc’s headquarters in Brussels.
‘The problem for the Kremlin is Zelenskyy’
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Moscow, says Russia’s suggestions it is ready for talks with Ukraine in Minsk were made after Moscow called for Kyiv to “lay down its arms” and warned it could never recognise Zelenskyy’s government as democratic.
“It is worth reminding people that the current Ukrainian president was elected in 2019 with a landslide 73 percent share of the vote, so he was democratically elected,” Smith said.
“But clearly, the problem for the Kremlin is Zelenskyy, and whether they will be able to have talks while he remains in power is unclear,” he added.
Zelenskyy had appealed for talks with Putin prior to the Kremlin’s suggestions of a summit in the Belarusian capital, which has hosted previous rounds of discussions between officials from Ukraine and Russia.
“I would like to address the President of the Russian Federation once again. There is fighting all over Ukraine now. Let’s sit down at the negotiation table to stop the people’s deaths,” Zelenskyy said in a video message to the nation.
EU close to agreement on sanctioning Putin, Lavrov, Luxembourg foreign minister says
Luxembourg’s foreign minister says the EU is close to reaching an agreement on sanctions targeting Putin and Lavrov.
“I think we are very close to an agreement,” Jean Asselborn told reporters in Brussels.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg also indicated that measures directly targeting Putin and Lavrov will be introduced imminently.
Ukrainian military vehicles enter Kyiv as Russian assault looms
Ukrainian military vehicles are entering the country’s capital Kyiv to defend it against approaching Russian troops, Ukraine’s interior ministry says.
Turkey says it cannot stop returning Russian warships from accessing Black Sea
Turkey cannot stop Russian warships accessing the Black Sea via its straits, as Ukraine has requested, due to a clause in an international pact that allows vessels to return to their home base, the Turkish foreign minister says.