Ukraine shot down military plane

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military says it has shot down a Russian military transport plane with paratroopers on board.

According to a statement from the military’s General Staff, the Il-76 heavy transport plane was shot down near Vasylkiv, a city 40 kilometers south of Kyiv. The Russian military has not commented on the incident so far, and the report could not be immediately verified.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has released a video of himself and his senior aides in Kyiv to reassure the nation as Russian troops were closing in on the capital.

In the video Zelenskyy recorded in the street outside the presidential office, he said he and his top officials are staying in the capital.

“Our troops are here, citizens are here,” Zelenskyy said, adding that “All of us are here protecting our independence of our country. And it will continue to be this way. Glory to our defenders, Glory to Ukraine, Glory to Heroes.”

Russian troops bore down on Ukraine’s capital, with gunfire and explosions resonating ever closer to the government quarter.

In the fog of war, it was unclear how much of Ukraine remains under Ukrainian control and how much or little Russian forces have seized. The Kremlin accepted Kyiv’s offer to hold talks, but it appeared to be an effort to squeeze concessions out of Ukraine’s embattled president instead of a gesture toward a diplomatic solution.

UNITED NATIONS—Russia has vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Moscow stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops.

Friday’s vote was 11-1, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining. It showed significant but not total opposition to Russia’s invasion of its smaller, militarily weaker neighbor.

The United States and other supporters knew the resolution wouldn’t pass but argued it would highlight Russia’s international isolation. The resolution’s failure paves the way for backers to call for a swift vote on a similar measure in the U.N. General Assembly. There are no vetoes in the 193-member assembly. There’s no timetable as yet for a potential Assembly vote.


SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria introduced a ban on the entry of Russian aircraft into the country’s airspace.

All aircraft licensed by the Russian Federation may not enter the sovereign airspace of the Republic of Bulgaria, including the airspace over its territorial waters, the government announced. The ban is effective starting Saturday.

The government said it took the action in connection with the escalation of the military conflict and in solidarity with Ukraine.

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SYDNEY—Australia is imposing sanctions against all 339 members of the Russian parliament and is considering sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also announced on Saturday sanctions against eight Russian oligarchs close to Putin. Australia was also taking steps to imposed sanctions on key figures in the Belarusian government who had aided the Ukraine invasion.

Payne said she was seeking advice from her department on following western allies’ example in sanctioning Putin.

“It is an exceptional step to sanction leaders, but this is an exceptional situation,” Payne said.

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WASHINGTON—Ukraine’s top diplomatic envoy in the U.S. is urging countries to sever diplomatic relations with Russia over its invasion of their country.

Ambassador Oksana Markarova’s request came in an emergency meeting Friday at the Washington-based Organization of American States, whose members were debating a resolution condemning the military attack ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s hard to imagine that something like this happens in the center of Europe in the 21st Century,” an emotional Markarova said during the meeting. She urged delegates to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons and follow the lead of the Federated States of Micronesia, a Pacific island nation that earlier Friday broke all ties with Russia.

Alexander Kim, a senior diplomat at Russia’s embassy in Washington, towed closely to the Kremlin’s unsubstantiated claim that the military incursion was an attempt to “de-Nazify” a government that had committed scores of atrocities against civilians.

“We are open to diplomacy,” Kim told representatives of more than 30 Latin American governments, many of whom have pursued closer relations with Moscow in recent years. “However, diplomacy presumes an ability to negotiate. It is not a tool for blackmailing and imposing the decision of Washington and its satellite states.”

LONDON—British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is in “close contact” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as he hailed “the fierce bravery and patriotism” of Ukraine’s government and people.

In a recorded message, Johnson said “the scenes unfolding in the streets and fields of Ukraine are nothing short of a tragedy,” calling it bloodshed Europe has not seen in a generation or more.

He said “the people of the United Kingdom stand with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in the face of this unjustifiable assault on your homeland.”

Johnson also urged Russians to oppose the invasion, which he called “a tragedy for Russia” as well as for Ukraine.

Speaking in Russian, he said: “I do not believe this war is in your name.”

Britain has imposed asset freezes and other sanctions on scores of Russian companies and several oligarchs, and has joined the U.S., Canada and the European Union in slapping sanctions on President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

BUDAPEST, Hungary—Hungary’s foreign minister has offered Budapest as a possible location for negotiations between the leaders of Russia and Ukraine as Russia’s invasion intensifies.

“Budapest can serve as a safe venue for both the Russian and Ukrainian negotiation delegations,” Peter Szijjarto said in a video on Facebook late Friday, adding that he had made the proposal to both Russia’s and Ukraine’s governments, neither of which dismissed it.

“I sincerely hope that an agreement can be reached within a few hours or days to start discussions; the sooner the talks begin, the sooner there will be peace and the fewer people will have to die in the war,” Szijjarto said.

BRUSSELS—With a military intervention in Ukraine off the table, countries around the world are looking to heap more financial punishment on Moscow.

The United States, Britain and European Union said Friday they will move to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The EU’s unanimous decision, part of a broader sanctions package, indicated that Western powers are moving toward unprecedented measures to try to force Putin to stop the brutal invasion of Russia’s neighbor and from unleashing a major war in Europe.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated the U.S. sanctions will include a travel ban.

TORONTO—Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is announcing sanctions on Russian Vladimir Putin, his chief of staff and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Trudeau also says Canada supports the removal of Russia from the SWIFT banking system.

The prime minister is also announcing sanctions against Belarus.

Meanwhile, Canada’s largest province is pulling Russian products from shelves from government owned liquor stores.

Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy says the province joins Canada’s allies in condemning the Russian government’s act of aggression against the Ukrainian people, and will direct the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to withdraw all products produced in Russia from store shelves.

The French-speaking province of Quebec is also considering banning Russian liquor.

UNITED NATIONS—The U.N. plans to seek over $1 billion in donations for humanitarian relief in Ukraine over the next three months, the world body’s humanitarian chief said Friday.

Martin Griffiths said at a news briefing that the exact amount of the appeal is still being decided but will be “well north of $1 billion.”

The U.N. announced Thursday that it was immediately allocating $20 million to expand its humanitarian operations in Ukraine. Even before Russia’s attack this week, the world body estimated about 3 million people were in need of aid after years of fighting between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government in the country’s east.

Now, “the scale of need in these very, very extraordinary circumstances is going to be of the highest,” Griffiths said.

The U.N. issues multiple appeals each year for international donors, mainly governments, to finance humanitarian efforts in trouble spots around the world. Last month, it requested more than $5 billion for Afghanistan, the largest-ever appeal tied to a single country.

RICHMOND, Va.—Criminal ransomware operators are posting messages on the dark web pledging to launch retaliatory cyberattacks if Russia is attacked.

The ransomware group Conti, which experts say has ties to Russia, said in a note on its dark web site Friday that it would “use all our possible resources to strike back at the critical infrastructures of an enemy.”

Ransomware gangs are mostly Russian-speaking and operate with near impunity out of Russia and allied countries.

In a follow up note, the Conti group stressed it was not an ally of any government and said: “we condemn the ongoing war.”

Major ransomware attacks in the last year, including against the biggest U.S. fuel pipeline, have underscored how gangs of extortionist hackers can disrupt the economy and put lives and livelihoods at risk. The U.S. government has been warning critical infrastructure entities to prepare for possible attacks and to make sure their defenses are up to date.

Non-state hackers have promised to be active in both sides of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The online collective Anonymous recently pledged to conduct cyberattacks to support Ukraine.

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BERLIN—The German government says it plans to deploy troops and the Patriot anti-missile system to Slovakia as part of NATO plans to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank.

The Defense Ministry said that it plans to send an infantry company as part of a combat troop battalion. And it said that Germany also will contribute the Patriot system.

The ministry stressed that the so-called “enhanced vigilance activity battlegroup” has a purely defensive function.

Slovakia is a NATO and European Union member that borders Ukraine. Germany already is beefing up its troop contingent in Lithuania, another nation on NATO’s eastern flank.

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KYIV, Ukraine–Russian troops are bearing down on Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.

Mayor Vitaly Klitschko says five explosions hit an area near a major power plant on the city’s eastern outskirts. There was no information on the cause of the blasts, which Klitschko said occurred at intervals of several minutes. No electricity outages were immediately reported.

The invasion of a democratic country has fueled fears of wider war in Europe and triggered worldwide efforts to make Russia stop.

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BELGRADE, Serbia—Serbia defied calls from the European Union and the U.S. to join sanctions against Russia, although its autocratic president said that Moscow’s assault against Ukraine is against the international law.

With the move, Serbia remains a rare European state together with Belarus not to join Western sanctions introduced against Moscow for its invasion of a sovereign European state.

“Serbia respects the norms of the international law,” President Aleksandar Vucic said. “But Serbia also understands its own interests.”

Vucic said that Serbia regards the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity as “very wrong,” but added it won’t join international sanctions against Russia.

Despite formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has been strengthening ties with its traditional Slavic ally Russia. Moscow has been supplying Serbia’s armed forces with weapons, leading to more tensions in the Balkans which went through a bloody civil war in the 1990s.

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ROME—Thousands of Romans and Ukrainians who live in the Italian capital marched side-by-side to the Colosseum to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

They took up the call by Rome’s mayor to clutch lit candles on Friday evening and walk from the square atop the Capitoline Hill to the ancient arena, a few minutes’ stroll away.

Several of the Ukrainians among the marchers wept. They put a hand over their heart while singing the Ukrainian anthem. Others held Ukrainian flags or protest signs or shouted, “hands off our country” or voiced other denunciations of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Among the marchers was Ruslan Yakubovskyy, a Ukrainian.

“I live here, I bought a home here, my family is here, but I am thinking about going back to Ukraine to fight and lend a helping hand,″ he said. “The situation is so difficult that either it’s that the rest of the world is pretending not to see or it doesn’t want to see it at all.”

City Hall and the Colosseum were illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, yellow and blue.

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WARSAW, Poland – Presidents of NATO’s eastern flank member states gathered Friday in Warsaw voiced their support for tough sanctions on Russia and its leaders for the invasion of Ukraine.

Nine presidents of the so-called NATO Bucharest Nine held a security summit with the participation of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. They also remotely join a NATO summit in Brussels.

“There cannot be any ‘business as usual’ in this situation in relations with Russia because that would have been a betrayal of the principles of the honest, open world,” Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, said after the talks that he had hosted.

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LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain would introduce sanctions against Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to inflict maximum punishment for invading Ukraine, his Downing Street office said Friday.

Johnson’s pledge comes as the European Union approved an asset freeze on Putin and Lavrov. The comments from Johnson suggest that Western powers are acting in concert on unprecedented measures to try to force Putin to stop the brutal invasion of Russia’s neighbor.

In comments to NATO leaders, the UK leader pressed again for immediate action to exclude Russia from the SWIFT system of financial transactions. European nations have faced criticism for failing to cut Russia off from the global bank payments network in offering sanctions on Thursday.

Johnson said “the world must make certain President Putin would fail in this act of aggression.”

TIRANA, Albania—Albania’s prime minister said the tiny Western Balkan country would welcome Ukrainian refugees.

Speaking after a NATO summit Prime Minister Edi Rama said that like all the other NATO member countries, Albania would be ready to welcome a few thousand Ukrainians leaving their country due to the Russian invasion.

Rama did not give any concrete number.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, has followed the United States and European Union on its stand denouncing Russian invasion.

Albania was the first to offer shelter and then house some 2,400 Afghan evacuees after the Taliban came to power in August last year. Some 300 have already left, mainly for the United States.

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BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that U.S. President Joe Biden and his counterparts have agreed to send parts of the organization’s response force to help protect allies in the east over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking after chairing a NATO meeting, Stoltenberg said the leaders decided to send parts of the NATO Response Force and elements of a quickly deployed spearhead unit. He did not say how many troops would be deployed, but confirmed that the move would involve land, sea and air power.

The NRF can number up to 40,000 troops, but Stoltenberg said that NATO would not be deploying the entire force. Parts of a force known in NATO jargon as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is currently led by France, will also be sent.

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