Saturday, January 28

Ukrainians in Odessa form chain to fill sandbags to protect city

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Citizens of Odessa form a human chain has they prepare for a Russian offensive, Odessa, Ukraine, on March 3.

Ukrainians in Odessa, a city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, formed a human chain to fill sandbags in preparation of a possible Russian attack.

CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh showed the chain of mainly young men who were passing down the sandbags to be placed into trucks and brought to the center of the city, which is the third largest in Ukraine and a popular tourist destination.

Residents are concerned about a Russia amphibious landing on the shore, Paton Walsh reported, especially because an Estonian vessel sank off the city’s port on Thursday. The ship was hit by Russian artillery, according to the official Twitter account of Ukrainian parliament.

When a man in line was asked if he ever expected to be there in the chain, he said, “We will defend our city and our country, for sure.”

Russia tells Germany there will be a third round of talks with Ukraine this weekend

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that a third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine has been scheduled for this weekend, according to a readout from Germany’s chancellery following a telephone call between the two heads of state on Friday.

The second round of talks held Thursday didn’t deliver any results that Ukraine needed, a Ukrainian negotiator said after the talks ended. However, humanitarian corridors for civilians were agreed on during that round of talks.

“Unfortunately, the results Ukraine needs are not yet achieved. There is a solution only for the organization of humanitarian corridors,” senior Ukrainian official Mykhailo Podolyak said in a tweet.

Videos show large explosion in western outskirts of Kyiv

Social media videos Friday afternoon showed the aftermath of what was likely a missile strike against the Chaika area in western Kyiv. The strike caused considerable damage to multi-story buildings in the area, according to videos geolocated by CNN.

According to map databases, the building that appears to have been most impacted by the blast is a business center. It is surrounded by open land.

The explosion reverberated across the city. 

There is no news of possible casualties.

At a ceremony for a new ferry, Putin details phone call with Belarusian leader and mentions Baltic Sea access

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands as they pose for a photograph during a ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia on June 24, 2020.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he discussed Belarus’ interest in having access to the Baltic Sea in a phone call with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.

“Just today we talked with the President of Belarus on this matter. Our Belarusian friends are interested in being present in the Baltic, interested in developing their own port facilities. You know that I also support it,” Putin said during a ceremony for a new Russian ferry, which he attended virtually. 

Belarus is a landlocked country, so it is unclear what practical steps Putin and Russia could take to provide access to the Baltic Sea. However, Russia has customs union with Belarus and shares a long common border. 

NATO’s Baltic members — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — are among those most concerned about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

This week, a Ukrainian government official told CNN that Ukrainian intelligence indicates Belarusian “readiness to maybe participate directly” in the invasion.

So far, however, US officials have not seen Belarusian troops “being readied to move into Ukraine” or “that they are moving or are in Ukraine,” a senior US defense official said Monday, adding that the forces inside Ukraine are Russian.

The White House on Wednesday detailed a new slate of economic measures levied against Russia and Belarus, condemning Belarus for “enabling Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“I’ve asked you to provide all possible assistance. This applies to various places, points, structures where our Belarusian friends could fulfill these options. I won’t go into details now, you know about them,” Putin also said during his remarks. “They are important not only for Belarus, but also for us because this is the development of our infrastructure, an increase in cargo transportation on our coast, for our country. Accordingly, the benefits of Belarus will extend to the Russian economy. We are also interested in this, so I ask you to support all these initiatives.”

A province of Russia, Kaliningrad, is situated between Poland and Lithuania along the Baltic Sea coast

Microsoft halts sales and services in Russia

Microsoft said Friday it will suspend “all new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia.”

In an online post, Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote that the company is also “stopping many aspects of our business in Russia in compliance with governmental sanctions decisions.”

It was not immediately clear if the suspension of sales was a direct result of sanctions compliance. Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The company added that it also continues to offer cybersecurity assistance to Ukraine and “most recently” helped to defend the country against a cyberattack targeting a “major Ukrainian broadcaster.” 

Microsoft’s cybersecurity team has helped respond to cyberattacks targeting “more than 20 Ukrainian government, IT and financial sector organizations,” Smith wrote.

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