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We have withstood and repelled attacks – Zelensky says

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a video message to the people of Ukraine on February 26.

In his latest video message on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians: “We have withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks. Fighting continues in different cities and regions of our country.”

Zelensky said the capital Kyiv and key towns around it were still under the control of the army.  We have ruined their plans. they have no advantage over us.”

He said Russia had hit residential areas using rockets, adding: “The destruction by missiles and artillery of residential buildings is the ultimate argument for the world to be by our side in stopping the occupiers’ invasion.”

Zelensky said Ukraine now had “almost full support of the members of the EU to exclude Russia from SWIFT” — the international payments system that has been at the heart of a debate about sanctions against Russia. “I hope that Germany and Hungary will have enough courage to support this decision,” he said.

He also said Ukraine has earned its membership in the European Union. “Now the decisive moment has come to end the many years of discussions” about Ukraine joining the bloc.

He again appealed to Ukrainians to resist the Russian invasion. Each Ukrainian should keep one thing in mind: if you can stop and destroy the occupiers — do it. Everyone who can come back to Ukraine — come back to defend Ukraine.”

He also appealed to volunteers from abroad. “All the friends who want to join us — please come, we will give you weapons.”

Switching to Russian, Zelensky then spoke again directly to Russians.

He thanked Dmitry Muratov, the head of independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and others in Russia for their anti-war activism, and said: “Russians are being sent to die in the thousands and to kill.”

France seizes Russian-flagged cargo ship over suspected sanctions breach

French authorities seized a Russian-flagged commercial ship Saturday in the English Channel, a spokesperson for the French Channel Prefecture told CNN.

The Russian-flagged “Baltic Leader” — a commercial vessel carrying cars — was stopped by French officials in the Channel and re-routed to the port of Boulogne, the spokesperson said. 

Customs officials have begun inspections of the vessel, which is suspected of belonging to a company targeted by European sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the spokesperson said. An investigation by French customs has been opened. 22 min ago

Russia’s media watchdog threatens outlets over Ukraine coverage

Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor has warned 10 local news outlets that it will restrict access to their publications unless they stop spreading what it calls false information, including references to the military operation in Ukraine as an “attack, invasion or declaration of war.”

In letters sent letters to these outlets, the watchdog said it complained about allegedly “false information” they published on the shelling of Ukrainian cities and the death of civilians caused by the Russian armed forces. 

The outlets notified are: Echo of Moscow, InoSMI, Mediazona, New Times, TV Rain, Svobodnaya Pressa, Krym.Realii, Novaya Gazeta, Zhurnalist and Lenizdat.

Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace prize in 2021. Some of these outlets have been designated by Russian authorities as foreign agents. 

“Unless the above inaccurate information is removed, access to these sources will be restricted,” the watchdog said in a statement on Saturday, announcing an investigation into the media outlets. 

“Roskomnadzor strongly recommends that the editorial offices of the media, prior to the publication (broadcast) of materials in accordance with Article 49 of the Mass Media Law, establish their authenticity,” the watchdog said. “We emphasize that accurate and verified information is available from official Russian information sources.

Several security checkpoints are being set up around Lviv

Several security checkpoints were set up around Lviv in western Ukraine on Saturday, CNN teams on the ground have witnessed. 

The city’s mayor confirmed the checkpoints in a statement on Saturday.

“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. 

Some of those checkpoints are still being established on the main roads leading to the city.

Separately, sirens went off multiple times in the city as local authorities in Lviv continue urging residents to take cover and go to nearby bomb shelters.

Lviv is the city to which some diplomats relocated from Kyiv, the capital, earlier this month.

No Russian casualties from Ukraine invasion reported by Russia’s Ministry of Defense

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Nathan Hodge in Moscow

The Russian Defense Ministry has not reported a single combat casualty from the military conflict in Ukraine, a CNN review of their news releases shows. 

In its latest update to the media on Saturday, the Russian Ministry of Defense only lists losses of military equipment on the Ukrainian side, as a result of what it calls a “special military operation.” On Friday, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said there were no casualties on the Russian side, in a statement regarding an operation to take an airfield on the outskirts of Kyiv. 

On the opposing side, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that the country’s forces have killed “hundreds” of Russian soldiers, without providing an exact figure. Ukrainian officials have acknowledged casualties on their side. 

On Friday morning, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Russia had lost more than 450 personnel.

CNN has been unable to independently verify these figures, but videos have surfaced on social media purporting to be showing Russian casualties.

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