Monday, February 6

Ukraine official says at least 57 killed and 169 injured following attacks by Russian forces

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US expands no-fly zone near Ukraine

The US government is expanding the area near Ukraine where American pilots cannot fly. 

The Federal Aviation Administration said it is publishing an expanded notice to pilots that will “now cover the entire country of Ukraine, the entire country of Belarus and a western portion of Russia.”

Prior to this announcement, the FAA prohibited operations only in an eastern region of Ukraine – though the Ukrainian airspace was already closed and no US airlines operate flights to or from Ukraine. 

The FAA says it is putting out its own bulletin to pilots instead of relying on one from the Ukrainian government “given the circumstances.” The restrictions do not apply to military operations.    6 min ago

There are 57 people who have died and 169 people have been injured – including both combat and non-combat injuries – following attacks by Russian forces, Ukraine’s Minister of Healthcare Viktor Lyashko said Thursday.

Speaking live on Ukraine’s 1+1 TV channel, Lyashko said hospitals and medical workers had also come under fire on Thursday – including in Avdiivka and Vuhledar in Donetsk – with casualties reported among medical workers.7 min ago

US sanctions Belarusian defense minister and others for support of Russian invasion

Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin is pictured during joint military drills between Belarus and Russia at the training ground in Belarus on February 19.

The US Treasury Department on Thursday announced sanctions against 24 Belarusian individuals and entities, including the defense minister, due to their “support for, and facilitation of” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Biden administration had said that Minsk would face “swift and decisive” sanctions if it allowed Russia to launch an attack of Ukraine from its territory.

Among those targeted by Thursday’s sanctions are two Belarusian state-owned banks – Belinvestbank and Bank Dabrabyt – as well as Belarusian Minister of Defense Viktor Gennadievich Khrenin and State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Aleksandr Grigorievich Volfovich. 

“Having already sacrificed its legitimacy to suppress the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people, the Lukashenka regime is now jeopardizing Belarus’s sovereignty by supporting Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

“Treasury continues to disrupt Belarus’s military and financial capabilities through targeted sanctions. Further, due to the interconnectedness between the two countries, the actions Treasury took against Russia today will also impose severe economic pain on the Lukashenka regime,” Yellen said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko spoke by phone on Thursday, according to Belarusian state news agency Belta.

CNN also witnessed, through a livestream video, troops atop a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus Thursday.14 min ago

US expels second-ranking Russian diplomat after expulsion of US deputy chief of mission from Moscow

The US expelled the No. 2 diplomat at the Russian embassy in Washington, DC, in response to Russia expelling the second-ranking US diplomat in Moscow earlier this year, a State Department official confirms.

The Russians were alerted of this yesterday, and the diplomat was given a few weeks to leave the US, the official said.

The US took this action as a direct response to what the Russians had done — nothing related to the Ukraine crisis. This instance follows years of diplomatic tit-for-tats exchanged between the two countries. 

The No. 2 person at the Russian embassy who will be leaving is the minister counselor.24 min ago

More than 100,000 people have moved within Ukraine, UN refugee agency estimates 

A long line of cars is seen exiting Kyiv on February 24. Heavy traffic appeared to be heading west, away from where explosions were heard early in the morning.

More than 100,000 people have moved within Ukraine, “fleeing the violence for safety,” the United Nations refugee agency said in a statement Thursday. 

“There has been significant displacement inside the country – it seems that more than 100,000 people have moved within the borders fleeing the violence for safety. And there have been movements towards and across international borders. But the situation is still chaotic and evolving fast,” said Matthew Saltmarsh, a spokesperson at the agency. 

Refugee resettlement organizations are mobilizing resources to assist displaced Ukrainians, advocates tell CNN. The scale and scope of refugee resettlement is likely to come into focus in the coming days and weeks. But refugee advocates are already warning of displacement — and meeting the needs of refugees — as Russia invades Ukraine. 

“Usually, these conflicts and exodus of refugees happens over time. You see a few people, then a few more people,” said Melanie Nezer, senior vice president of global public affairs at HIAS, a refugee resettlement organization. Nezer cautioned that it’s still unclear how long the conflict will last and if people will be able to return home.  

“We are working to quickly mobilize resources and connect with partners to establish a response that will provide life-saving support to civilians forced to flee their homes,” Lani Fortier, senior director of emergencies at the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement.  

HIAS’ partner in the region, Right to Protection, has been assisting displaced people in Ukraine for years. Since the invasion, staff have been seeking safety, Nezer said. 

“Yesterday we were doing work, literally we were out in the field in the east serving our clients, and today everyone is on the move,” she added. 

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned Wednesday at the UN General Assembly meeting as many as five million people could be displaced “by Russia’s war of choice.”

Some context: The United States has resettled thousands of Ukrainians in recent years. The process, though, can be long and cumbersome, meaning that an influx of refugees to the US is not expected imminently. 

“Because resettlement is not the first response in a conflict situation, we’re not anticipating huge numbers of Ukrainian refugees through the US resettlement program specifically,” said Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, another resettlement agency. 

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