Irpin as Russian
Local residents escape from the town of Irpin as Russian troops advance towards the capital of Kyiv, in Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukraine March 6, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

War rages in Ukraine for the 11th day on Sunday as Russian troops besiege and bombard cities, in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two. Follow the latest developments from the war front:


American Express says suspending 'all operations' in Russia, Belarus

US credit card and payments giant American Express said Sunday it is suspending its operations in Russia and Belarus over Moscow's "unjustified" attack on Ukraine.

"In light of Russia's ongoing, unjustified attack on the people of Ukraine, American Express is suspending all operations in Russia," the company said in a statement, noting that American Express cards will no longer work at merchants or ATM money machines in Russia.

"We are also terminating all business operations in Belarus," it added.

Russia warns countries against hosting Ukraine military aircraft

Russia on Sunday warned Ukraine's neighbours including NATO member Romania against hosting Kyiv's military aircraft, saying they could end up being involved in an armed conflict.

"We know for sure that Ukrainian combat aircraft have flown to Romania and other neighbouring countries," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a video briefing.

"The use of the airfield network of these countries for basing Ukrainian military aviation with the subsequent use of force against Russia's army can be regarded as the involvement of these states in an armed conflict."

Putin tells Macron Russia to reach aims through 'negotiation or war': Elysee

Russian President Vladimir Putin told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Sunday that Moscow planned to achieve its aims in Ukraine either through diplomacy or military means, the Elysee said.

Russia would reach its objectives in Ukraine "either through negotiation or through war", Putin told Macron according to a French presidential official, adding the Russian president also pledged "it was not his intention" to attack Ukrainian nuclear sites.

Macron found Putin "very determined to achieve his objectives", including on "what the Russian president calls the 'de-Nazification' and the 'neutralisation' of Ukraine", added the official, who asked not to be named.

Putin also demanded recognition of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea - annexed by Russia in 2014 - as part of Russian territory as well as recognition as independent of two Ukrainian eastern breakaway regions already recognised by Russia.

These demands are "unacceptable for the Ukrainians", said the official.

Putin also denied that the Russian army is targeting civilians after Macron urged him not to endanger civilians, in line with international law.

The French president replied to him that "the army attacking is the Russian army" and said he had "no reason to believe that the Ukrainian army is putting civilians in danger", the official said.

France's Macron tells Putin he is concerned about looming attack on Odessa

French President Emmanuel Macron told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call on Sunday of his concerns about a possible imminent attack on the Ukrainian city of Odessa, according to a statement from Macron's office.

Macron also stated the importance of finding a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine crisis, and of protecting Ukraine's nuclear facilities.

Putin said on Sunday that his campaign in Ukraine was going to plan and would not end until Kyiv stopped fighting, as efforts to evacuate 200,000 people from the heavily bombarded city of Mariupol fell apart for a second day in a row.

Putin blames Kyiv for failed civilian evacuations from Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron blamed Kyiv for failed civilian evacuations from the key Ukrainian port city of Mariupol which is surrounded by Russian troops, the Kremlin said Sunday.

Putin "drew attention to the fact that Kyiv still does not fulfil agreements reached on this acute humanitarian issue," according to a statement from the Kremlin, after two agreements to evacuate Mariupol fell though following allegations of ceasefire breaches.

Top US diplomat Blinken to meet France's Macron

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, a State Department spokesman said Sunday, as world leaders scramble to stop Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Macron is expected to host Blinken on Tuesday around 6 pm (1700 GMT), the spokesman said.

Macron on Sunday held new telephone talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the fourth time they had spoken since the Russian attack of Ukraine on February 24.

'Unlawful' for Britons to fight in Ukraine: UK military head

The head of the UK armed forces Admiral Tony Radakin said on Sunday that it was "unlawful and unhelpful" for Britons to go and fight against Russia in Ukraine.

His comments contradict British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who said she supported anyone who wanted to volunteer and follow an appeal for foreign fighters to come to Ukraine from President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"We've been very clear that it's unlawful as well as unhelpful for UK military and for the UK population, to start going towards Ukraine," Chief of the Defence Staff Radakin told BBC television.

"Support from the UK, support in whatever way you can. But this isn't really something that you want to rush to, in terms of the sound of gunfire."

Truss said last week that she would "absolutely" support Britons wanting to go to Ukraine to fight, and an unknown number have already gone.

"I think she was reflecting... that we can all understand that sentiment, and that sentiment needs to be channelled into support for Ukraine, but we're saying, as professional military people, that actually that is not necessarily the sensible thing to be doing," Radakin said.

Zelensky has urged foreigners to head to Ukrainian embassies worldwide to sign up for an "international brigade" of volunteers to help fight invading Russian forces.

Ukraine situation day 11
Image Credit: Seyyed de Llata/Gulf News

At a glance: latest developments in Russia-Ukraine conflict

Fierce battles: Ukraine's military says it is fighting "fierce battles" with Russian forces on the edge of the southern city of Mykolaiv, which controls the road to the key Black Sea city of Odessa in the west.

President Volodymyr Zelensky warns that Russia is preparing to shell the historic port near the Romanian and Moldovan borders.

Chernihiv pummelled: Dozens of civilians are being killed in the battle for Chernihiv in the north, with those who remain in the city living in craters or among the ruins. AFP has witnessed scenes of devastation.

Refugee crisis: fastest since WWII:  Ukraine is the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II, says the UN. More than 1.5 million people have fled into neighbouring countries since Russia attacks on February 26.

New Mariupol ceasefire: The besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol - which has neither power nor water - attempts again to evacuate civilians after a ceasefire on Saturday broke down.

Doctors Without Borders call the situation in the battered Sea of Azov port "catastrophic".

Polish jets deal: The United States says it is working on a deal with Poland to supply Ukraine with fighter jets that its pilots are trained to fly.

Zelensky had pleaded with former Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe to give Ukraine Russian-made warplanes.

Russia limits essential food sales: Russian shops are told to limit sales of essential foodstuffs to counter black market speculation as Western sanctions bite.

Zelensky's plea to US: Zelensky phones President Joe Biden after pressing US lawmakers for an embargo on Russian oil imports. The White House is against a ban for fear of driving up prices.

Putin: Ukraine could cease to exist: Russian President Vladimir Putin warns Ukraine it may cease to exist as a state if leaders "continue to do what they are doing".

He also says countries imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine will be considered combattants, while equating sanctions with a declaration of a war.

Israeli PM visits Putin: In his first face-to-face with a foreign leader since the invasion, Putin holds talks with Israeli Premier Naftali Bennett.

Erodgan calls for ceasefire: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also talks with Putin and calls for an "urgent general ceasefire".

Media blackout: A host of international broadcasters, including the BBC and CNN, say they will stop reporting from Russia because of a new law threatening up to 15 years in jail for "fake news" about its invasion.

No ticket out: Russia's flagship airline Aeroflot says it is suspending all its international flights except to Belarus.

More talks planned: One of Ukraine's negotiators says a third round of talks with Russia on ending the fighting will take place on Monday.

South Korea sanctions Belarus: Seoul hits Belarus, the springboard for Russia's attacks of Ukraine, with export controls.

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People lie on the floor of a hospital during shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, Ukraine. Image Credit: AP

Italian brand Prada suspends retail sales in Russia

Italian luxury label Prada has announced it is suspending retail sales in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Prada is following in the footsteps of other multinationals and luxury brands, including the French giants LVMH, Hermes and Chanel.

The Prada Group suspends its retail operations in Russia

- Italian luxury label Prada

"The Prada Group suspends its retail operations in Russia," the firm said on its Linkedin site, adding that the move was effective from Saturday.

"Our primary concern is for all colleagues and their families affected by the tragedy in Ukraine, and we will continue to support them," Prada said.

"The Group will continue to monitor further developments."

Russia banks turn to China after Visa, Mastercard suspension

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Image Credit: Reuters

Russian banks said Sunday they planned to issue cards using China's UnionPay system after Visa and Mastercard moved to suspend operations in Russia over Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine.

Russian Visa and Mastercard bank cards will no longer be valid abroad, and cards issued abroad will no longer work in Russia, the global payments companies announced Saturday.

Major Russian lenders Sberbank and Alfa Bank said they are working on a rollout of UnionPay cards.

"Sberbank is working on the possibility of issuing co-branded Mir-UnionPay cards. We will inform you later about the timeframe for the issue," Russia's largest bank Sberbank said in a statement.

The country's largest private lender Alfa Bank said it is "already working on launching cards on UnionPay, China's national payment system".

Ukraine warns Russia preparing to shell port city Odessa

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Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defence Forces patrol a street in Odessa, Ukraine. Image Credit: Reuters

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Sunday that Russian forces are preparing to shell Odessa, a historic port city on the Black Sea coast.

"They are preparing to bomb Odessa. Odessa!" he declared, in a video address.

"Russians have always come to Odessa. They have always felt only warmth in Odessa. Only sincerity. And now what? Bombs against Odessa? Artillery against Odessa? Missiles against Odessa?" he demanded.

"It will be a war crime. It will be a historical crime."

Evacuation of Mariupol

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Glass on a hospital window is shattered by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine. Image Credit: AP

The Ukraine port city of Mariupol, which is surrounded by Russian troops, said Sunday it will begin efforts to evacuate its civilian population, after earlier efforts were scuppered by ceasefire violations.

"From 1200 (1000 GMT) the evacuation of the civilian population begins," city officials said in a statement, which said a ceasefire was agreed with Russian-led forces surrounding the city.

Fierce battles with Russian forces in Mykolaiv, Kyiv

Ukraine's military says it is fighting "fierce battles" with Russian forces on the edge of the southern city of Mykolaiv - which controls the road to the key Black Sea city of Odessa in the west.

Dozens of civilians are being killed in the battle for Chernihiv in the north, with those who remain living in craters or among the ruins, with AFP witnessing scenes of devastation.

The Russian push on Kyiv is also becoming more deadly and indiscriminate despite Moscow's denials that it is targeting civilian areas, with people fleeing the towns of Bucha and Irpin as they are pounded by air strikes.

Blasts in Kharkiv, strong resistance

Blasts were heard overnight in Kharkiv, the second-largest city, Ukrainian media said, while the armed forces said they were conducting defensive operations in the eastern Donetsk, Chernihiv and elsewhere. Ukraine, which says it has shot down 88 Russian aircraft, continues to surprise Russia with the scale and strength of its resistance, UK military intelligence said.

UK PM Johnson: 'Diplomatic efforts stood no chance'

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said diplomatic efforts in lead up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine had stood no chance, and that President Vladimir Putin's war was now "sinking further into a sordid campaign of war crimes and unthinkable violence against civilians."

Writing in the New York Times, Johnson said the conflict would not become a NATO one, and reiterated the military alliance would not send troops in. NATO is seeking to prevent war potentially spilling outside Ukraine's borders or being drawn into the conflict inside the country despite President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's repeated calls for a no-fly zone.

Visa, Mastercard suspends services in Russia

Mastercard said cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by its network and any card issued outside the country will not work at Russian stores or ATMs.

Visa said it's working with clients and partners in Russia to cease all Visa transactions over the coming days.

The suspensions are a follow-up to more limited moves earlier in the week to block financial institutions from the networks that serve as arteries for the payments system.

Putin: 'No-fly zone' over Ukraine entry into conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Saturday that Moscow would consider any country imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine to have entered into the conflict, while he also equated global sanctions with a declaration of war.

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky has pleaded with the West to support a no-fly zone as his besieged country continues to resist Moscow's invasion, now in its second week.

The current (Ukrainian) authorities must understand that if they continue to do what they are doing, they are putting in question the future of Ukrainian statehood

- Vladimir Putin

Putin, who has dubbed his incursion a "special military operation" to defend separatist regions and previously argued that Ukrainian statehood is a fiction, also threatened his ex-Soviet neighbour's continued existence should its leaders "do what they are doing".

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FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin Image Credit: Reuters

While Kyiv's allies have levelled sweeping sanctions to try to deter the Russian assault, they have so far ruled out a no-fly zone, fearing it could escalate into a wider war with the world's most nuclear-armed state.

Putin warned that a no-fly zone would have "colossal and catastrophic consequences not only for Europe but also the whole world".

"Any movement in this direction will be considered by us as participation in an armed conflict by that country," the Russian leader said during a meeting with employees of national airline Aeroflot.

He also suggested Kyiv's actions could cause Ukraine to lose its sovereignty.

"The current (Ukrainian) authorities must understand that if they continue to do what they are doing, they are putting in question the future of Ukrainian statehood," he said at the weekend gathering. "And if this happens, they will be fully responsible."

With the economic and humanitarian toll of the war spiralling, civilians have fled both Ukraine and Russia, where a clampdown is under way.

But Putin dismissed rumours that the Kremlin was planning to declare martial law in Russia.

Crowds of men lining up in Kyiv to join Ukrainian army

An order from Ukraine's government prohibited men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country to keep them available for military conscription.

But some like Volodymyr Onysko volunteered to fight.

"We know why we are here. We know why we defend our country. And our guys that are actually standing there and fighting Russian military forces,'' he told Britain's Sky News. "We know what we are doing and that's why we will win.''

Others, like British Army veteran Mark Ayres, travelled to Ukraine to help. Ayres said the Ukrainian people have been inspiring and "it's galvanized everybody.''

"I've got no illusions. I've got no romantic ideas of war or like `I'm going to be some hero' or make a difference . but it is what I do,'' Ayres said.

Ceasefire collapses, Mariupol under attack

Russia resumed its offensive against the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol after a ceasefire agreed to allow the evacuation of civilians broke down. Each side blamed the other.

Officials in Mariupol had announced plans for a large-scale evacuation during the ceasefire but later said they had to postpone the operation in the face of continued Russian shelling.

Russia accused Ukrainian forces in Mariupol of blocking residents from leaving.

MSF warned that the humanitarian situation in the city is "catastrophic" and that it is "imperative" to set up a humanitarian corridor.

Zelensky speaks to Biden

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday he spoke by phone with his US counterpart Joe Biden to discuss financial support and sanctions against Russia as his country faces an intensifying onslaught.

"As part of the constant dialogue, I had another conversation with @POTUS," Zelensky tweeted. "The agenda included the issues of security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia."

In a readout on the half-hour call, the White House said Biden had emphasised steps his administration and allies have taken "to raise the costs on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine".

He also highlighted efforts by private companies, such as payment giants Visa and MasterCard, to freeze out Moscow by suspending operations in the wake of the February 24 invasion. Hours earlier, the Ukrainian leader had addressed US lawmakers by video call, pleading for further assistance to his besieged country and a blacklisting of Russian oil imports.

The American legislators promised an additional $10 billion aid package, but the White House has so far ruled out an oil ban, fearing it would ratchet up prices and hurt US consumers already stung by record inflation. Weapons, ammunition and funds have poured into Ukraine from Western allies, which have also imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow.

Washington last week authorised $350 million of military equipment for Kyiv - the largest such package in US history.

While visiting Ukrainian refugees on the Polish border over the weekend, US Secretary of State Antony said that Washington was seeking $2.75 billion to help address the humanitarian crisis unfolding as nearly 1.4 million civilians flee.