Sunday, January 29

Special evacuation trains scheduled to travel from Kyiv to western Ukraine

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People wait on the platform of a train station in Kyiv on February 25.

The Ukrainian Railway Company has on Friday announced a number of special evacuation trains running from Kyiv to the western parts of Ukraine.

The extra trains are departing from Kyiv’s main rail and suburban station.

The company announced the added trains will be for Rakhiv, Uzhhorod, Truskavets, Vorokhta, Kovel, Chernivtsi and Lviv.

Here are some details the company provided about these evacuation trains:

  • Seats on the train will be available on first-come-first-served basis.
  • Priority will be given to children, women and people with limited mobility.
  • Due to the circumstances, train delays are possible.
  • There are enough cars for the safe evacuation of about 10,000 people by the end of Friday.

The company has asked those traveling on the special trains to not disclose their locations and not to be surprised if emergency lighting is used. 

“The less the train looks like a garland, the safer the journey,” it added.27 min ago

NATO official says “we will do what it takes” to support Ukraine as response force is activated

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that NATO will “do what it takes” to defend all its allies, including Ukraine, and “every inch of NATO territory,” confirming that the NATO Response Force (NRF) had been activated for the first time in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

“This goes far beyond Ukraine — this is about how Russia is actually challenging and contesting core values of our security, and demanding that NATO should withdraw all forces and infrastructure from almost half of our members,” Stoltenberg said. 

“We have to take this seriously, and that is exactly why we are now deploying the NATO Response Force for the first time in a collective defense context,” he added. 

The activation of the response troops does not mean that any US or NATO troops will go into Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance. US President Joe Biden has been clear that US troops are deploying to eastern Europe to help bolster NATO countries nervous about Russia’s aggressive actions, and they will not be fighting in Ukraine.

Speaking during a press briefing following a rare meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government in Brussels, Stoltenberg clarified that while the US, Canada and European allies have “deployed thousands of more troops” to the eastern part of the alliance, NATO is not deploying the entire response force. 

“We have over 100 jets at high alert, operating in over 30 different locations and over 120 ships from the high north to the Mediterranean,” Stoltenberg said. “We activated the defense plans yesterday, and now elements of this force are being deployed.”

According to Stoltenberg, the size of the NATO Response Force has “tripled since 2014 to roughly 40,000 troops.”

“I am not saying we are deploying the whole thing, I’m saying we are deploying elements,” he reiterated.27 min ago

US plans to impose sanctions on Russia’s Putin as soon as today, sources tell CNN

The United States is planning to impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin as soon as Friday, according to two sources familiar with the decision.

The Russian leader will become the highest profile target in the effort to impose costs on the Russian economy and Putin’s inner circle in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Additional Russian officials are likely to be included, one of the sources said.

The US action follows reports the European Union plans to target Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with sanctions.

US President Joe Biden has said sanctioning Putin has been an option under consideration, telling CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Thursday it was “on the table.”30 min ago

Kyiv mayor warns of “difficult” night ahead as Russian troops are “very close” to Ukrainian capital

People take shelter in the basement of a building in Kyiv on February 25.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that Russian troops were “very close to the capital” and predicted “a difficult night” for the city.

“The situation now is threatening for Kyiv, no exaggeration. The night and the morning will be difficult,” Klitschko said in the address posted on his Telegram channel on Friday. 

“Russian troops are very close to the capital. The sabotage groups are neutralizing the military and law enforcement agencies in the city. Bridges are under protection and special control in the capital. Military equipment and soldiers of the Armed Forces are patrolling them,” he said. 

He added that Kyiv hospitals were operating in wartime mode and said checkpoints have been installed at the main entrances to the city and near strategic facilities in the capital. 

“We are doing this to protect Kyiv,” he said, adding “I thank the people of the city for their willingness to defend the capital and the country, along with other units of the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies.”

CNN earlier reported that US intelligence officials are concerned that Kyiv could fall under Russian control within days, according to two sources familiar with the latest intelligence.55 min ago

First publicly acknowledged military aid arrives in Ukraine since invasion

Poland has shipped a convoy with ammunition to Ukraine, according to the country’s Minister of Defense Mariusz Błaszczak, making it the first publicly acknowledged shipment of military aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.

“A convoy of ammunition we are donating to Ukraine has already reached our neighbors. We stand by the Ukrainians, and show solidarity against Russian aggression,” he said in a tweet.

The tweet neither described the sort of ammunition Poland sent the Ukrainians nor the amount. 1 hr 6 min ago

Ukrainian airspace warning expanded, citing missile threat

European aviation regulators are doubling the size of the warning zone around Ukraine, fearing “mid-range missiles penetrating into controlled airspace.”

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has expanded its warning for airlines and other civilian operators from 100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles of the Ukrainian border with Russia. 

EASA said the expanded area now factors in the “risk posed by the threat of missile launches to and from Ukraine.”

The threat is real: In 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile, killing nearly 300 people. Western officials and a Dutch-led investigation said Russian President Vladimir Putin bears responsibility for the incident, but Putin denied it. 1 hr 11 min ago

Poland and the Czech Republic will close airspace for Russian airlines

Poland and the Czech Republic will close airspace for Russian airlines following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday that he is drawing up legislation that will lead “to the closure of airspace for Russian airlines.” 

The Czech Republic’s Minister of Transport Martin Kupka said the country will stop operations of all Russian carriers on its territory starting tomorrow. “As of midnight today, we are stopping the operation of all Russian air carriers on Czech territory,” he said on Twitter.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom announced it is banning civilian Russian aircraft from its airspace.47 min ago

Here are some possibilities Putin may be planning for Ukraine

Russia President Vladimir Putin is seen in his office during a virtual meeting with members of his security council on February 25.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very clear about his basic goals in invading Ukraine: He wants to disarm the country, sever its ties to the NATO military alliance and end the Ukrainian people’s aspirations of joining the West.

While guessing exactly how he plans to execute that plan is a different matter, history can serve as a guide for understanding Putin’s possible endgames.

Crimea annexation 2.0

If Russian forces are able to capture Ukraine’s port city of Odessa, it’s possible to imagine a land bridge extending all the way across southern Ukraine, potentially even linking Transnistria — a separatist enclave in Moldova, where Russian troops are stationed — to Odessa, Crimea and southern and eastern Ukraine.

A partitioned Ukraine

If Putin has partition in mind, Galician Ukraine and the city of Lviv — close to the Polish border — could potentially be a part of a sort of rump Ukrainian state, while Russia focuses its attentions on the east of the country.

A pro-Russian state

Western intelligence officials warn that Russia is planning to topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government, replacing it with a puppet regime. Putin has suggested he sees the current democratically elected government in Ukraine as illegitimate, and lamented the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Ukraine does have other politicians who might be eager to fill the ranks of a pro-Russian government, installed possibly by force.

An uneasy occupation

Russia says it doesn’t want to be an occupier, but it’s easy to imagine a scenario where Russia tries to impose its form of heavy-handed rule on Ukraine. That would be hard pill for Ukrainians to swallow as they have free press, freewheeling local politics and a tradition of street protest. In the Russian political system, genuine opposition protests are largely banned, or very difficult to organize.

A violent occupation

Putin has had no problem backing violent local strongmen with scant regard for human rights. His own political rise began with the pacification of Chechnya, a breakaway republic in Russia’s north Caucasus.

A republic of fear

Russia has a fearsome domestic security apparatus that jails and persecutes dissidents and keeps potentially troublesome opponents out of politics. Ukrainians living in Crimea — which was occupied by Russia in 2014 and annexed after a referendum widely seen as a sham — experienced first-hand what it’s like to live in a state where the FSB, Russia’s state security service, is all-powerful.

You can read the full analysis here.28 min ago

UK to introduce further sanctions against Putin and Lavrov imminently 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov holds a meeting in Moscow on February 25.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday he will introduce new sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “imminently” on top of sanctions the United Kingdom announced yesterday.

A readout of Johnson’s call with NATO leaders published on the UK government’s website read that Johnson urged them “to take immediate action against SWIFT to inflict maximum pain on President Putin and his regime.”

SWIFT is a high-security messaging network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world.

The UK PM told the group that “a catastrophe was engulfing Ukraine,” and that “President Putin was engaging in a revanchist mission to over-turn post-Cold War order.”

Johnson said that Putin’s “ambitions might not stop there” and that the Russian attack on Ukraine was “a Euro-Atlantic crisis with global consequences.”

“The Prime Minister added that the world must make certain President Putin would fail in this act of aggression. Ukraine was showing strong resistance. He added that there could no normalization of relations with Russia after this act,” the Downing Street statement read.

“The UK stood ready for any further request from NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe to go further with military support to NATO from UK Armed Forces,” Johnson told NATO leaders, per the statement.1 hr 17 min ago

EU adds Russian President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov to its sanctions list

The European Union has added Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to its sanction list, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said in a press conference on Friday following the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

“This is the final outcome of the discussion that was not finished yesterday at the European Council and has been decided today by the ambassadors and the Ministers,” Borrell said.

“So President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov are in the list of sanctioned people together with the remaining members the Duma who are supporting this aggression,” he added.

Borrell said that the only world leaders who were sanctioned by the European Union are Syrian President Assad and Belarusian President Lukashenko.

“And now Putin,” he added.1 hr 26 min ago

President Biden and President Zelensky spoke for 40 minutes today

US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke about sanctions and defense assistance on Friday.

The White House confirmed that the meeting ran from 11:52 a.m. to 12:32 p.m. ET.

The Ukrainian President shared details of the meeting via his official Twitter account, saying:

The conversation comes after Zelensky, who is still in Kyiv, delivered a speech overnight saying Ukraine was “alone in defending our country.” 

“Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of joining NATO? Honestly, everyone is afraid,” Zelensky said. Today I asked 27 European leaders if Ukraine will be in NATO, asked straight up. Everyone is afraid, not responding, but we are not afraid.”1 hr 12 min ago

NATO head calls on Russia to stop “senseless war,” says Russia and Belarus will be held “accountable”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers opening remarks from NATO headquarters in Brussels during a virtual summit of NATO heads of state and government on February 25.

Following an extraordinary virtual summit of NATO heads of state and government on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia again to stop the attack on Ukraine.

“We call on Russia to stop this senseless war, immediately cease its assaults, withdraw all of its forces from Ukraine and turn back to the path of dialogue and turn away from aggression,” he said in a press conference adding that “the Kremlin’s objectives are not limited to Ukraine.”

He warned that the alliance is facing a new normal in European security.

“Russia has demanded legally binding agreements to renounce further NATO enlargement and to remove troops and infrastructure from allies that joined after 1997,” he added.

Stoltenberg also warned that “the world will hold Russia and Belarus accountable for their actions — Russia as the aggressor, Belarus as the enabler.”1 hr 19 min ago

NATO Response Force activated for first time ever in response to Russian invasion of Ukraine

US soldiers arrive at Adazi Military Base in Adazi, Latvia on February 25. 

For the first time ever, the NATO Response Force has been activated as a defensive measure in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Tod Wolters activated the multinational force consisting of land, air, sea and special operations forces from the allies that can deploy quickly in support of the NATO alliance.

The activation of the response troops does not mean that any US or NATO troops will go into Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance. US President Joe Biden has been clear that US troops are deploying to eastern Europe to help bolster NATO countries nervous about Russia’s aggressive actions, and they will not be fighting in Ukraine.

Wolters called it a “historic moment” in his statement.

“They represent a flexible, combat credible force that can be employed in multiple ways and we are utilizing fully their inherent agility,” he added. “These deterrence measures are prudent and enhance our speed, responsiveness and capability to shield and protect the one billion citizens we swore to protect.”

The force has not yet deployed but are on standby.

CNN reported early Friday that air raid sirens have been going off in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, which is less than 50 miles from the border of Poland, a NATO member.

The United States announced Thursday that 7,000 US troops will be deployed to Europe. President Biden said he’d authorized “the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe,” to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. He also said he’d authorized “additional US force capabilities” be sent to Germany as part of NATO’s response, including some forces that had been placed on standby several weeks ago.1 hr 55 min ago

France: Chinese FM said it’s important to respect territorial sovereignty of “all states, including Ukraine”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated the importance of respecting Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic adviser on Friday, according to a statement from the Élysée Palace.

“[Wang] welcomed France’s action in favor of dialogue between Ukraine and Russia,” according to the statement. “He reiterated the importance of respecting the integrity and territorial sovereignty of all states, including Ukraine,” the statement said.

Emmanuel Bonne, Macron’s diplomatic adviser, told Wang that it was Russia that decided to launch an invasion despite France’s efforts to avoid war. Bonne reiterated that Russia should stop its military operations immediately, according to the statement.

Wang called for easing of tensions and to “put an end to civilian casualties by resuming negotiations.” 

Earlier, China continued to refrain from acknowledging Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dodging more than 30 questions in its Ministry of Foreign Affairs daily briefing on Friday about Russia’s aggression and the current situation in Ukraine. 

“All countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected” and “the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be jointly upheld,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin repeatedly responded to reporters, sticking closely to statements made from China in previous days.

Wang also reiterated that China “understands Russia’s legitimate concerns on security issues,” and echoed calls for parties to “exercise restraint and avoid further escalation of the situation.”

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