The West adds fuel to Ukraine crisis

February 27, 2022 - 11:15

TEHRAN- The armed conflict between Russian and Ukrainian forces intensities as the capital Kyiv is peppered with massive explosions and street fighting breaks out.

On Saturday, the streets of Ukraine's capital turned into a battleground, but President Volodymyr Zelensky assured people via video message that the country had "withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks," and that Kyiv remained under Ukrainian authority.

For the third morning in a row, residents in Kyiv woke up to explosions and the sounds of conflict as the fight moves closer to the city center. 

According to a new document issued by the White House late Friday, Joe Biden has directed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to release up to $350 million in emergency help for Ukraine's security and defense.

This is the third money withdrawal; prior orders were for $60 million and $250 million, bringing the total over the last year to over a billion dollars.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has issued a warning to people in Kyiv that street fighting is taking place. In a Facebook post-Saturday, the ministry said: "Active fighting is taking place on the streets of our city. Please stay calm and be as careful as possible! If you're in the shelter, don't leave it now. If you are at home, do not go close to the windows, do not go to the balconies. Hide indoors, for example in the bathroom, and cover yourself with something that will prevent injury from bullet fragments. If you hear sirens, go immediately to the nearest shelter!"

A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed that Russian forces had tried to "bring the maximum amount of equipment into the city of Kyiv."

But, he said, "Currently, the situation in the suburbs and the surrounding area is under control."

Speaking on Ukrainian television, he said there were "separate sabotage and reconnaissance groups" in the city, but that police and territorial self-defense units "are actively working against them."

On Saturday morning, President Zelensky denied any reports of Ukraine laying down its arms on Twitter titled "Do not believe the fakes." Early Saturday, a projectile struck a residential building near Kyiv's second airport, with images featuring a large impact some ten floors up.

The facade of building appeared totally blasted out and columns of smoke billowed high into the air. According to Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko, emergency personnel are on the site, but the extent of the injuries is unknown. 

The Interior Ministry of Ukraine has released images of the apartment building in Kyiv that was destroyed early Saturday, showing emergency services assisting inhabitants in their evacuation.

"Today I will start with long-awaited words, which I wish to announce with pride," Zelensky said. "Finally," he continued. "Ukraine is United ... This is our victory."

On Saturday, as violence in Kyiv grew more intense, a top Chinese ambassador backed the country’s long-held position on national sovereignty, saying it "applies equally to the Ukraine issue."

"China firmly believes that the sovereignty & territorial integrity of all countries should be respected & protected and the purposes & principles of (the UN Charter) abided by in real earnest. This position of China is consistent & clear-cut, and applies equally to the Ukraine issue," wrote Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese government's special representative on Korean peninsula affairs.

Russia's defense ministry said Saturday it launched cruise missile strikes overnight against targets in Ukraine.

"During the night, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation launched a strike with long-range precision weapons using air- and sea-launched cruise missiles against Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a video statement. "I emphasize once again that the fire is directed only on the objects of the military infrastructure of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, excluding damage to residential and social infrastructure."

In a tweet on Saturday, the Ukrainian president said it is now a "critical moment" to decide on his country's membership in the European Union.

"It is a crucial moment to close the long-standing discussion once and for all and decide on Ukraine's membership in the #EU. Discussed with @eucopresident further effective assistance and the heroic struggle of Ukrainians for their free future," a tweet on his verified Twitter page said.

On Friday, a day after Moscow launched attack on Ukraine, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attempted to reassure the world about civilian losses.

"Nobody is going to attack the people of Ukraine," he said during a heated press conference, there were "no strikes on civilian infrastructure."

From 8 a.m., artillery impacts were heard in and around Kherson, Ukraine, which is located north of the Crimean peninsula.

By 11 a.m., the bridge, which connects Russian-controlled territories to Ukraine, was completely engulfed in smoke from nearby grass that had caught fire.

According to the Ukraine embassy in Britain's Twitter account, Zelensky has declined an invitation from the U.S. to evacuate the capital Kyiv.

Zelensky told the U.S.: "The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride. 

"Ukrainians are proud of their President," the tweet adds. 

In a video posted Saturday morning on Twitter, Zelensky said, "We are not putting down arms."

The UN's Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, said that up to 4 million people may attempt to enter borders as the Ukraine conflict continues.

With 850,000 people internally displaced and over 120,000 individuals fleeing Ukraine, Clements said people were forced to make "life or death decisions."

“We've had a humanitarian crisis in the country for the last eight years and it's just become a whole lot worse. In addition to those 850,000 internally displaced primarily in the east, we know that over 100,000 people are already on the move.”

Dozens security checkpoints were set up around Lviv in western Ukraine on Saturday as the city's mayor confirmed the checkpoints in a statement. 

"Checkpoints are being set up in Lviv and the region. They will be placed on all entrances and exits to the Lviv Territorial community for checking all people entering the territory," Andriy Sadovyi said, according to the statement.

"Checkpoints are placed in cooperation with police and territorial defense forces to ensure the safety of Lviv," the statement added.

Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications regulator, has warned ten local news outlets that access to their publications would be restricted unless they cease distributing "false information," such as allusions to the military action in Ukraine as an "attack, invasion, or declaration of war."

The watchdog objected to these sources in letters over what it called "fake information" they published concerning Russian military forces bombardment of Ukrainian cities and the deaths of civilians. A Russian-flagged commercial ship was arrested by French authorities in the English Channel on Saturday, according to a representative for the French Channel Prefecture.
Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, has imposed a curfew from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. starting Saturday evening. "For more effective defense of the capital and the security of its inhabitants." The curfew will continue until the morning of February 28.

"All civilians on the street during the curfew will be considered as members of the enemy's sabotage and reconnaissance groups. "Please treat the situation with understanding and do not go outside."

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has lashed out at Western sanctions imposed on Russia -- of which he is also a target -- saying they are a sign of “political impotence.” I believe it is obvious to intelligent people: sanctions are a myth, a threat, a figure of speech. I am fundamentally indifferent to these widely publicized restrictions of rights abroad,” Medvedev said in a post on Russian social network VK on Saturday.

“The reason for the sanctions is this. It is political impotence arising from inability to change Russia’s course. Also, a hope to make up for the shameful decisions like the cowardly flight from Afghanistan.”

Flights from carriers or aircraft registered in Bulgaria, Poland, or the Czech Republic have been denied access to Russian airspace by the Russian Civil Aviation Authority.

“This decision was made in accordance with the norms of international law as a response to the ban on all civil flights of aircraft operated by Russian air carriers and/or registered in Russia to/from the territory of these states,” the Russian Civil Aviation authority said in a statement on Saturday. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday that the U.S. will provide $350 million in fresh military aid to Ukraine. UK PM Johnson has called for an end to Russia’s involvement in SWIFT. “We are calling for an end to Russian involvement in SWIFT,” said a UK government update on Ukraine which Johnson tweeted Saturday.

According to a statement released by the UK Ministry of Defense on Saturday, Royal Navy fighters, British Army personnel, and Royal Air Force jets have been deployed in Eastern Europe to boost NATO's eastern front.

According to a Polish border guard, some 100,000 individuals have entered Poland from Ukraine since the conflict began on Thursday.

“Yesterday was a record day, Border Guard officers cleared over 47,000 people in the direction to Poland. We will help everyone, we will not leave anyone without help. Once again, all Polish services are working together,” a tweet attributed to the guard’s Commander-in-Chief read. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjart said Saturday in a statement that the country will not block any sanctions against Russia, including SWIFT. 

As part of EU sanctions, Italy supports SWIFT sanctions on Russia. According to a statement on Saturday, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called for an “immediate de-escalation and the cessation of hostilities” in Ukraine.


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