- Ukrainian delegation arrives at the border with Belarus for talks with Russian representatives.
- Kyiv’s mayor says infrastructure to deliver food and medication is destroyed, with city nearing a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
- Protesters take to the streets in cities across Canada over the weekend to denounce Russian invasion of Ukraine; Ottawa sending $25M in protective military gear to Ukraine.
- What questions do you have about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Blasts were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and in the major city of Kharkiv on Monday morning, a statement from officials said, as a delegation from Ukraine arrived at the border with Belarus for talks with Russia.
The delegation includes Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak among others, the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement. The talks will focus on achieving an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces, the statement said.
The Kremlin on Monday said it hoped talks with the Ukrainian side would start imminently, but declined to comment on Moscow’s aim in negotiations, as Russian invasion forces seized two small cities in southeastern Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia regretted that talks had not started a day earlier. Russian forces ran into stiff resistance elsewhere in Ukraine as Moscow’s diplomatic and economic isolation deepened.
The update about proposed talks came as Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection said blasts were heard in Kyiv and in the major city of Kharkiv. Kyiv had been quiet for a few hours prior to that, it said in a brief statement on the Telegram messaging app.
In a separate statement, the agency said a residential building in the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine was on fire after being struck by a missile.
Faced with missile threats and advancing Russian troops, more than 500,000 civilians — mainly women and children — have fled into neighbouring countries since the start of Russia’s invasion last week, a UN relief agency said Monday. Refugees have poured into central Europe with queues at border crossings stretching for kilometres.
Shabia Mantoo, a UNHCR spokesperson, said the latest and still-growing count had 281,000 in Poland, more than 84,500 in Hungary, about 36,400 in Moldova, more than 32,500 in Romania and about 30,000 in Slovakia. The rest were scattered in unidentified other countries, she said.
President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert on Sunday in the face of a barrage of Western-led reprisals for his war on Ukraine, which said it had repelled Russian ground forces’ attempts to capture urban centres.
The United States said Putin was escalating the war with “dangerous rhetoric” about Russia’s nuclear posture, amid signs Russian forces were preparing to besiege major cities in the democratic country of about 44 million people.
Russian currency plunges
Meanwhile, ordinary Russians faced the prospect of higher prices as sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine sent the ruble plummeting, leading people to line up at banks and ATMs on Monday.
The Russian currency plunged about 30 per cent against the U.S. dollar in early trading Monday, a day after Western nations announced moves to block some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system and to restrict Russia’s use of its massive foreign currency reserves.
The Russian central bank raised its key rate to 20 per cent from 9.5 per cent in an attempt to shore up the ruble and prevent a run on banks, bringing only a temporary reprieve for the currency.
What’s happening on the ground?
Kyiv, capital city
The fast-moving developments came as scattered fighting has continued around Kyiv. With Russian troops closing in around Kyiv, a city of almost three million, the mayor of the capital expressed doubt that civilians could be evacuated. Authorities have been handing out weapons to anyone willing to defend the city. Ukraine is also releasing prisoners with military experience who want to fight, and training people to make firebombs.
But Russian Defence Minister Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the military would let Kyiv residents use a highway that leads out of the city to the southwest — an offer that appeared to signal a new onslaught is coming.
A nearly 40-hour curfew in Kyiv ended on Monday morning. The curfew will resume each night, from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.
Kharkiv, second-largest city
Battles also broke out in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, with reports from U.K. defence officials early Monday suggesting heavy fighting continues around both Kharkiv and Chernihiv.
Cities and villages in the south
Strategic ports in the country’s south came under assault from Russian forces.
By late Sunday, Russian forces had taken Berdyansk, a Ukrainian city of 100,000 on the Azov Sea coast, according to Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office. Russian troops also made advances toward Kherson, another city in the south of Ukraine, while Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov that is considered a prime Russian target, is “hanging on,” Arestovich said.
In Mariupol, where Ukrainians were trying to fend off attack, a medical team at a city hospital desperately tried to revive a young girl in unicorn pajamas who was mortally wounded in Russian shelling. During the rescue attempt, a doctor in blue medical scrubs, pumping oxygen into the girl, looked directly into the Associated Press video camera capturing the scene.
“Show this to Putin,” he said angrily. “The eyes of this child, and crying doctors.” Their resuscitation efforts failed, and the girl lay dead on a gurney, her jacket spattered with blood.
Western border communities
People fleeing Ukraine poured into central Europe, with queues at border crossings stretching for kilometres after the invasion pushed nearly 400,000 people to seek safety abroad.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:40 a.m. ET
Meanwhile, the global backlash against Russia’s invasion mounted.
The United Nations Human Rights Council agreed on Monday to Ukraine’s request to hold an urgent debate this week on Russia’s invasion, minutes after Kyiv’s envoy told the Geneva forum that some of Moscow’s military actions “may amount to war crimes.”
Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko, said in an opening speech: “Russia, a member of this council proceeded to an unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine. It was not just an attack on Ukraine, it was an attack on every UN member state, on the United Nations and on the principles that this organization was created to defend.”
Gatilov told the talks that Russia had launched “special operations to stop the tragedy” in Ukraine’s Donbas region, and that Russia’s forces were not firing on civilian targets in Ukraine.
In New York, the UN Security Council convened a rare emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly, or all the United Nations’ 193 member states, for Monday.
Rolling protests have been held around the world against the invasion, including in Russia, where almost 6,000 people have been detained at anti-war protests since Thursday, the OVD-Info protest monitor said.
Tens of thousands of people across Europe marched in protest, including more than 100,000 in Berlin.