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Ukrainian servicemen take positions at the military airbase Vasylkiv in the Kyiv region, Ukraine. Image Credit: Reuters

Russia continues its military campaign in Ukraine on day four with Moscow ordering its troops to advance in Ukraine "from all directions" while the West responds with sanctions that sought to cripple Russia's banking sector. Here are the latest updates:

Russia attacks Ukraine: The story so far

Blasts heard in Ukraine's Kyiv, Kharkiv: Ukrainian information body

Blasts were heard in Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and in the major city of Kharkiv on Monday morning, Ukraine's State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection said.

Kyiv had been quiet for a few hours prior to that, it said in a brief statement on the Telegram messaging app.

Support from nations

Denmark will let its nationals join international brigades forming to fight in Ukraine against Russian forces, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Sunday.

Frederiksen told reporters it was a choice that each individual would have to make themselves, but that she saw no legal obstacle.

Many countries including neutral non-aligned Sweden have started to send military or humanitarian aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Thursday.

The United States, Canada and 19 European countries have so far responded to urgent Ukrainian appeals for military equipment.

Berlin has broken a longstanding taboo of not exporting arms to conflict zones in vowing to send Ukraine 1,000 anti-tank weapons, 500 "Stinger" surface-to-air missiles and nine howitzers.

It is also donating 14 armoured vehicles and 10,000 tonnes of fuel.

Stockholm is also breaking its historic neutral stance to send 5,000 anti-tank rockets to Ukraine as well as field rations and body armour.

It is the first time Sweden has sent weapons to a country in armed conflict since the Soviet Union invaded neighbouring Finland in 1939.

Germany says Putin nuclear threat linked to Russia's 'halted' offensive

President Vladimir Putin put Russia's nuclear deterrent on high alert on Sunday in the face of a barrage of Western reprisals for his war on Ukraine, which said it had repelled Russian ground forces attacking its biggest cities.

The United States said Putin was escalating the war in a "totally unacceptable" way, amid signs that the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two was not producing rapid battlefield victories, but instead generating a far-reaching and concerted Western response.

The Ukrainian president's office said negotiations with Moscow without preconditions would be held at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border.

"I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try, so that later not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as president, tried to stop the war," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

Anti-war protesters detained

Russia on Sunday detained more than 2,000 anti-war protesters across the country, an independent monitor said, on the fourth day of President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine that took many Russians by surprise.

OVD-Info, which monitors arrests at protests, said 2,114 protesters had been detained on Sunday.

This brought the total tally of protesters detained since Putin launched the invasion in the early hours of Thursday to 5,250, the monitor said.

G7 leaders to meet on Tuesday

Finance leaders from the G7 Western democracies will meet virtually on Tuesday to discuss the conflict in Ukraine and potential aid options for the country, World Bank President David Malpass said on Sunday.

A source familiar with the meeting plans also told Reuters that the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors will discuss the latest round of financial sanctions against Russia's central bank and removal of key Russian commercial banks from the SWIFT financial transactions network.

Malpass told CBS' "Face the Nation" program that the G7 finance leaders "can decide a lot of how much aid goes into Ukraine."

Russia admits casualties, injuries

The Russian army on Sunday admitted that there were "killed and injured" soldiers among its troops in Ukraine on the fourth day of its invasion of the country, without specifying how many Russians had died there.

"Russian servicemen are showing courage and heroism while fulfilling combat tasks in the special military operation. Unfortunately, there are killed and injured among our comrades," Moscow's army spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on state television.

EU to finance weapons deliveries to Ukraine

The European Union will shut down EU airspace to Russian aircraft, seek to ban Russian state-owned media in the bloc and target Russian ally Belarus with sanctions, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday.

Von der Leyen also said that the EU would for the first time finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to Ukraine. "This is a watershed moment for our Union," she said in a short delivered statement.

The EU has also sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Together, the steps added up to the toughest stance the European Union has taken against a country, reflecting the bloc's horror and anger at Putin's assault on Ukraine, launched on Thursday.

"As the war in Ukraine rages on, and Ukrainians fight bravely for their country, the European Union steps up once more its support for Ukraine and the sanctions against the aggressor - Putin's Russia," von der Leyen said in a broadcast address.

She said the airspace ban would prohibit flights into or over the EU by "every Russian plane - and that includes the private jets of oligarchs". The move against Russian state media targeted its outlets Russia Today - known as RT - and Sputnik, and their subsidiaries. She said they "will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin's war and to sow division in our Union".

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, at her side, said the measure involved "banning Russia Today and Sputnik from broadcasting in the European Union".

Von der Leyen said the sanctions against Belarus were aimed at "the other aggressor in this war", naming the regime of strongman Alexander Lukashenko. "We will hit Lukashenko's regime with a new package of sanctions," she said.

"We will introduce restrictive measures against their most important sectors. This will stop their exports of products from mineral fuels to tobacco, wood and timber, cement, iron and steel. "We will also extend to Belarus the export restrictions we introduced on dual use goods for Russia."

Belarusians helping Russia's military operation would also be sanctioned, she said. Von der Leyen said the decision to provide funding for the purchase and delivery of arms to Ukraine was "a watershed moment for our Union".

Borrell, who was to chair a virtual meeting of the EU's foreign ministers just after the declarations, said: "I will today propose to use the European Peace Facility for emergency assistance measures to finance the supply of lethal material to the Ukrainian army, as well as badly needed fuel, protective equipment and medical supplies." He said "we are doing this because this war requires our engagement in order to support the Ukrainian army - because we live in unprecedented times".

Ukraine's President Zelenskiy says will use every opportunity to secure peace

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that he needed to use every opportunity to secure peace, as Ukraine was due to meet with Russia for peace talks.

"I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try so that later not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as President, tried to stop the war, when there was even a small, but still a chance," Zelenskiy said.

Ukraine-made giant air cargo Mriya burnt in Russian shelling

The world's largest cargo plane, the Ukrainian-made Antonov-225 Mriya, was burnt in a Russian attack on Hostomel airport near Kyiv, Ukrainian state arms manufacture Ukroboronprom said on Sunday.

"The Russian occupiers destroyed the flagship of Ukrainian aviation - the legendary An-225 Mriya. It happened at the Antonov airfield in Hostomel near Kyiv," Ukroboronprom said on its Facebook page.

It said that the plane restoration would cost more than $3 billion and take a long time.

WHO urges safe corridor for medical supplies to Ukraine

The World Health Organization on Sunday called for a safe corridor through Poland to deliver critical medical aid to Ukraine and warned that hospital oxygen supplies in the country were dangerously low

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Europe regional director Hans Kluge said oxygen supplies were "nearing a very dangerous point" and that most hospitals could exhaust their reserves within the next 24 hours, putting thousands of lives at risk.

The WHO is working to deliver oxygen cylinders and liquid from regional networks, they said, adding that the supplies would need "safe transit, including via a logistics corridor through Poland".

"It is imperative to ensure that life-saving medical supplies - including oxygen - reach those who need them," they said in a joint statement as Moscow's incursion into its neighbour reached its fourth day.

Welcoming hundred of thousands of Ukrainian refugees

The EU on Sunday scrambled to coordinate a welcome for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, talking notably about offering them temporary protection status.

"We have to see what status we can give these people fleeing Ukrainian territory in extremely difficult conditions," French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said as he arrived at talks Sunday.

According to the United Nations, around 368,000 refugees have fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries, particularly Poland, and their numbers are rising.

The EU needs to ensure they are looked after "as well as possible" as they arrive, then look at applying the temporary protection status, said Darmanin, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

The status evoked is one the EU has on its books since 2001, drawn up for the refugee flows out of the conflicts that wracked the former Yugoslavia but which has never been used.

European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said she would urge the EU ministers in the meeting to apply the status to the Ukrainians. "It would be the right time to use the Temporary Protection Directive in this time," she said.

Belgium's Immigration Minister Sammy Mahdi said his country would push for the Temporary Protection Directive to be put in place. The move would help make "sure that people who are fleeing from Ukraine receive all the protection as necessary", he said.

"They need to be helped," he added. Germany's interior minister, Nancy Faeser, stressed that a speedy response was needed. "The main thing now is to find non-bureaucratic solutions to get people to safety as quickly as possible," she said.

One option was "a very unconventional admission, visa-free, for example," for the Ukrainians, she said.

"We will not surrender..."

Ukraine's foreign minister said Sunday that Kyiv would not buckle at talks with Russia over its invasion, accusing President Vladimir Putin of seeking to increase "pressure" by ordering his nuclear forces on high alert.

"We will not surrender, we will not capitulate, we will not give up a single inch of our territory," Dmytro Kuleba said at a press conference broadcast online.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia invaded Thursday. The United Nations' refugee agency, UNHCR, says it is planning to deal with up to four million if the situation worsens.

The United States and Europe must "really stand together" in response to Russia's military aggression and "threatening rhetoric", NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday, adding the alliance "does not want war".

"NATO does not want war with Russia, we don't seek confrontation," he told BBC World.

"We are (a) defensive alliance, but we need to make sure that there's no room for misunderstanding, miscalculation about our ability to defend and protect allies."

NATO is to deploy its rapid response force for the first time to bolster its eastern flank in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Putin's nuclear alert an 'unacceptable' escalation

The United States charged Sunday that President Vladimir Putin is "manufacturing threats" as he placed Russian nuclear deterrence forces on high alert amid the Ukraine crisis.

"This is a pattern that we've seen from President Putin through the course of this conflict, which is manufacturing threats that don't exist in order to justify further aggression," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on ABC when asked about the announcement from Moscow.

Spain said Sunday it was closing its airspace to Russian carriers, following similar moves by several European nations over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"Spain will proceed to close its airspace to Russian airlines," the transport ministry said on Twitter, adding that it was following the "cooperation guidelines set by the European Union".

Ukraine says can meet Russia for talks at Belarus border

Ukraine on Sunday said it would hold talks with Russia at its border with Belarus - near the Chernobyl exclusion zone - after a phone call between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

"The politicians agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet the Russian one without preconditions at the Ukraine-Belarus border, near the Pripyat River," Zelensky's office said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that a Russian delegation was currently in the Belarusian city of Gomel.

Putin orders nuclear forces on high alert

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his defence chiefs to put the country's nuclear "deterrence forces" on high alert Sunday and accused the West of taking "unfriendly" steps against his country.

International tensions are already soaring over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Putin's order will cause further alarm.

Moscow has the world's second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and a huge cache of ballistic missiles which form the backbone of the country's deterrence forces.

"I order the defence minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service," Putin said.

"You see that Western countries are not only unfriendly to our country in the economic sphere - I mean illegitimate sanctions," he added, in a televised address.

"Senior officials of leading NATO countries also allow aggressive statements against our country."

Defence Minister Shoigu replied: "Affirmative."

Ukraine Day four
Russia attacks Ukraine: Day four Image Credit: Graphic News/Seyyed Llata, Senior Designer

Nations close airspace to Russian planes, calls for more to follow

Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland Sunday said they would close their airspace to Russian planes, joining other European countries in ramping up sanctions over Moscow invading Ukraine. Italy said Sunday it would close its airspace to Russia flights, and urged all European Union countries to do the same.

"Italy has decided to close its airspace to Russia," Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Twitter, confirming earlier comments from a government spokesman. He called on all EU countries to follow suit.

"I will support a common action of all EU countries: that the whole EU closes its airspace to Russia", he added.

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia, "is preparing to close its airspace to Russian air traffic," Transport Minister Timo Harakka wrote in an overnight tweet. He did not state when the measure would take effect.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on Twitter his country too would "be closing its airspace for Russian aircraft". "At today's meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs we will push for an EU-wide ban," Kofod said.

Sweden and Iceland also said they were closing off their skies to Russian planes.

Sweden's Minister of EU Affairs said a Europe-wide ban would be the most efficient.

"We want it to be done as soon as possible, and the best and fastest way would be that it be done at European level," he told the TT news agency. Finland, Sweden and Denmark are EU members, but Iceland is not.

Already a number of other EU countries - such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany and Poland - have closed their airspace to Russian flights, forcing westbound Russian planes to make enormous diversions. Moscow, for its part, has also banned planes from those countries from flying over its territory.

Putin accuses Ukraine of wasting 'opportunity' for talk

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday accused Ukrainian authorities of wasting "an opportunity" to hold talks after Moscow's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday he had spoken by phone with Belarus strongman and Kremlin ally Alexander Lukashenko, as Russia pressed on with its invasion of the pro-Western country.

"I've spoken with Alexander Lukashenko," Zelensky said on Facebook, without providing further details. 

Ukraine army retakes Kharkiv, President invites foreigners to join fight

The Ukrainian governor said that the army had retaken Kharkiv expelling Russian troops.

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

"All foreigners wishing to join the resistance against the Russian occupiers and protect global security are invited by the Ukrainian leadership to come to our state and join the ranks of the territorial defence forces," Zelensky said in a statement.

"A separate unit is being formed from foreigners - the International Brigade of the territorial defence of Ukraine. This will be a key testimony of your support for our country."

Zelensky insisted that Ukrainians were courageous enough to face Russia alone, but said: "This is not just a Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is the beginning of a war against Europe".

He said anyone interested in joining should get in contact with the military attache at their nearest Ukrainian embassy.

Pope calls for an end to the fighting

Pope Francis on Sunday called for an end to fighting in Ukraine on the fourth day of a Russian invasion of the country.

"Let the weapons fall silent," he said. "God is with those who seek peace, not those resorting to violence."

Germany also offered free train rides to bring in Ukrainian refugees from Poland. 

Indian nationals advised to travel together

Embassy of India in Kyiv, Ukraine published an advisory for Indian nationals stuck in Ukraine amid the Russian attack on Ukrainian cities. The embassy said that Indian citizens are being evacuated from Ukraine through Romania and Hungary.

The embassy added, "We are continuously exploring and working to open up more borders with the neighboring countries for our citizens."

Russia market crash show 'our sanctions are working': Scholz

Heavy sanctions imposed by Western allies against Russia over its attack on Ukraine are already showing effect, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Sunday, warning that further embargoes could come if Moscow failed to change course.

"Already in the last week, the Russian stock markets sank by more than 30 percent. That shows: our sanctions are working," said Scholz. "And we reserve the right to impose further sanctions," he warned.

Ukraine conflict could last 'number of years': UK FM Truss

The Russia-Ukraine conflict could last a "number of years" and the world needs to be prepared for Moscow "to seek to use even worse weapons", British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned Sunday.

"I fear this will be a long haul, this could be a number of years," Truss told Sky News.

"Russia have strong forces and we know the Ukrainians are brave, they are determined to stand up for their sovereignty and territorial integrity and they are determined to fight," she said.

The minister said that intelligence showed that Ukrainian forces were "continuing to resist Russian advances" and that there had not been "significant changes" overnight.

But she warned Russian President Vladimir Putin could deploy more deadly weapons.

Finland, Denmark to close airspace to Russian planes

Finland and Denmark on Sunday said they would close their airspace to Russian planes, joining other European countries in ramping up sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia, "is preparing to close its airspace to Russian air traffic," Transport Minister Timo Harakka wrote in an overnight tweet.

He did not state when the measure would take effect.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on Twitter his country too would "be closing its airspace for Russian aircraft".

"At today's meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs we will push for an EU-wide ban," Kofod said.

Already a number of other countries - such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany and Poland - have closed their airspace to Russian flights, forcing westbound Russian planes to make enormous diversions.

Moscow, for its part, has also banned planes from those countries from flying over its territory.

Greece to send Ukraine 'defence equipment', aid: PM

Greece is to send Ukraine "defence equipment" and humanitarian aid, the prime minister's office said Sunday, after Athens accused Russia of killing 10 ethnic Greeks during its invasion of Ukraine.

Two military transport planes were to depart for Poland on Sunday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' office said in a statement, without adding further details about what equipment they would be carrying.

A separate shipment of humanitarian aid was also to be sent the same day, accompanied by Deputy Defence Minister Nikos Hardalias, it added.

Greece on Saturday accused Russia of committing "murder" against members of the ethnic Greek community in Ukraine.

Zelensky ready to talk with Russia, but not in Belarus

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday Ukraine was willing to hold talks with Russia, but rejected convening them in neighbouring Belarus as it was being used as a launchpad for Moscow's invasion.

"Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Baku. We proposed all of them," Zelensky said in an address posted online.

Zelensky says Russia striking residential areas in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that Moscow was bombarding residential areas in Ukraine as its invading forces sought to push deeper into the pro-Western country.

"The past night in Ukraine was brutal, again shooting, again bombardments of residential areas, civilian infrastructure," Zelensky said in an address posted online.

"Today, there is not a single thing in the country that the occupiers do not consider an acceptable target. They fight against everyone. They fight against all living things - against kindergartens, against residential buildings and even against ambulances."

He said Russian forces were "firing rockets and missiles at entire city districts in which there isn't and never has been any military infrastructure".

"Vasylkiv, Kyiv, Chernigiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and many other towns in Ukraine are living in conditions that were last experienced on our lands during World War II."

Photos: The battle for Ukraine: Russian troops enter Kharkiv

Putin hails 'heroism' of Russian special forces in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday congratulated members of special forces, saying they fought "heroically" in Ukraine, while the Kremlin stressed it was ready for talks with Kyiv.

"Special gratitude to those who these days are heroically fulfilling their military duty in the course of a special operation to provide assistance to the people's republics of Donbas," Putin said in a televised address.

Separately, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that Russia was ready for talks with Ukraine, adding that a delegation from Moscow had arrived in the Belarusian city of Gomel.

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Smoke rises after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine. Image Credit: Reuters

Kremlin says ready for talks with Ukraine in Belarus: Russian news agencies

China envoy to Ukraine postpones evacuation of citizens

China's envoy to Ukraine said Sunday current conditions were too unsafe to evacuate citizens, days after the embassy said it would prepare plans to help people leave.

In a lengthy video message on the embassy's official WeChat account, Chinese ambassador Fan Xianrong sought to dispel rumours he had left Kyiv and reassure Chinese nationals left stranded in the war-torn country.

"We must wait until it is safe before leaving," said Fan from his office, seated in front of a Chinese flag and what appeared to be a fold-out camp bed frame.

"As long as safety conditions are met and everyone's safety is guaranteed, we will make appropriate arrangements."

North Korea blames US for Ukraine crisis

North Korea has accused the United States of being the "root cause of the Ukraine crisis" while defending Russia, in Pyongyang's first official response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

North Korea, in a muted response issued in the form of a commentary posted on the Foreign Ministry's website, said the United States was to blame for the unfolding disaster.

Washington has pursued "military supremacy in disregard of the legitimate demand of Russia for its security" according to the commentary, attributed to Ri Ji Song, a researcher at the North's Society for International Politics Study.

"The root cause of the Ukrainian crisis also lies in the high-handedness and arbitrariness of the US," said the post uploaded on the North's foreign ministry website on Saturday.

Ri slammed the US for holding a "double standard" - saying it meddled in the internal affairs of other countries in the name of "peace and stability" but "but it denounces for no good reason self-defensive measures taken by other countries to ensure their own national security."

"Gone are the days when the US used to reign supreme," the post said.

Russia praises India's 'balanced' stance on Ukraine

Russia has praised India's "independent and balanced" position after Delhi abstained from a UN Security Council vote that deplored Moscow's "aggression" against Ukraine.

The Russian embassy in India welcomed India's stand on Saturday.

"Highly appreciate India's independent and balanced position at the voting in the UNSC," it said on Twitter.

"In the spirit of the special and privileged strategic partnership, Russia is committed to maintain close dialogue with India on the situation around Ukraine."

Trump praises Putin

Donald Trump blasted President Joe Biden and NATO over the Ukraine crisis and reprise his false claims of a stolen 2020 election in a speech to grassroots Republicans. Speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, the former president spent 86 minutes reprising many of his favorite applause lines, assailing the "radical left" and its "witch hunt" against him. As massive explosions lit up the sky over Ukraine's capital Kyiv, Trump blamed Russia's invasion of its neighbour on Biden's "weakness" and lavished praise on President Vladimir Putin's intellect.

"As everyone understands, this horrific disaster would never have happened if our election was not rigged," he said, to rapt applause.

NATO, he said, was "looking the opposite of smart" for hitting Russia with sanctions rather than resolving to "blow (Russia) to pieces - at least psychologically."

"The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he's smart," he went on. "But the real problem is that our leaders are so dumb."

Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

In brief: Here's what you need to know about the Ukraine crisis right now:

1) Western allies announced sweeping new sanctions against Moscow, as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine's forces were repelling Russian troops advancing on Kyiv.
2) The SWIFT international payments system said it was preparing to implement steps by the West against some Russian banks, a move that will inflict a crippling economic blow to Moscow but also cause much pain to Western companies and banks.
3) At least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed, the head of the Ukrainian Health Ministry was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
4) Russia blew up a natural gas pipeline in Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv, although Russia continues to supply Europe with gas via Ukraine.
5) Refugees continued to pour across Ukraine's western borders, with around 100,000 reaching Poland in two days.
6) Ukraine denied that it was refusing to negotiate a ceasefire with Russia but said it was not ready to accept ultimatums or unacceptable conditions.
7) A Ukrainian road-maintenance company said it was removing all road signs to hinder invading Russian forces: "Let us help them get straight to hell."
8) In a sea of blue and yellow flags and banners, protesters around the world expressed support for the people of Ukraine and called on governments to do more to help Kyiv, punish Russia and avoid a broader conflict.
9) "We will fight as long as it takes to liberate the country," Zelenskiy said in a video message.
10) "We will hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for Putin," the leaders of the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada and the United States wrote.

Arab students stranded in Ukraine desperate to go home

Thousands of young Arabs who took up studies in Ukraine are appealing to be rescued.

More than 10,000 Arab students attend university in Ukraine, drawn to the former Soviet republic by a low cost of living.

Many have sought refuge in basements or the metro system. Few dared to cross the border into neighbouring Poland or Romania in search of sanctuary.

Among Arab countries, Morocco has the largest number of students in Ukraine, with around 8,000 enrolled in universities, followed by Egypt with more than 3,000.

Hundreds of students from Lebanon, gripped by a financial crisis the World Bank says is one of the world's worst in modern times, are also trapped in the country.

Ukraine says Russian troops blow up gas pipeline in Kharkiv

Russian troops have blown up a natural gas pipeline in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Ukraine's state service of special communications and information protection said on Sunday.

A mushroom-shaped explosion was shown in a video it posted on the Telegram messaging app.

EU unveils new sanctions to 'cripple' Putin

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday said that Brussels would propose to freeze the assets of the Russian central bank, in a major escalation of sanctions against Moscow following the invasion of Ukraine.

Von der Leyen also said the EU would remove "certain" Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system, in response to a key demand of Kyiv to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin.

These new measures will "cripple Putin's ability to finance his war machine," Von der Leyen said.

She was speaking after a videoconference with the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Canada intended to coordinate the West's response to the invasion.

The allies also agreed to further restrictions on Russian oligarchs, including measures "to limit the sale of citizenship - so-called golden passports - that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries".

Von der Leyen said she would make the proposals to EU leaders, who could request amendments to minimise the effect of the measures on their economies. The new wave of sanctions was an extraordinary leap forward in just a few days that was made possible by a sudden reversal by Germany on its opposition to restricting Russia from SWIFT.

SWIFT's messaging system allows banks to communicate rapidly and securely about transactions, and cutting Russia off would cripple its trade with most of the world. Italy, Hungary and Cyprus were also opposed to the SWIFT ban, but have come around to the idea in the face of international outrage against Russia's invasion of its neighbour.

In an apparent concession to Berlin, the powers agreed that the ban would only apply to selected banks in order to avoid the measure backfiring too harshly on European businesses. In probably the most unexpected new measure against Putin, the powers agreed to limit the Russian central bank's ability to access its vast foreign reserves.

These are estimated to be over $600 billion and are the vast windfall of Russia's immense energy wealth. "This will freeze its transactions. And it will make it impossible for the Central Bank to liquidate its assets," Von der Leyen

Images from the frontlines as Russia attacks Ukraine