The latest on Russia and Ukraine from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
11:21 a.m.: A senior U.S. defence official says the United States estimates that more than 50 per cent of Russian combat power arrayed along Ukraine’s borders has entered Ukraine. That is up from a U.S. estimate Friday that one-third of the Russian force had been committed to the fight.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. assessments, would not say how many Russian troops that amounts to inside Ukraine, but the U.S. had estimated the total Russian force arrayed near Ukraine at more than 150,000.
The official said advancing Russian forces were roughly 30 kilometres outside Kyiv as of Saturday, and that an unspecified number of Russian military “reconnaissance elements” had entered the capital.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that “the speed of the Russian advance has temporarily slowed likely as a result of acute logistical difficulties and strong Ukrainian resistance.”
Russian troops pressed toward Ukraine’s capital Saturday, after a night of explosions and street fighting that sent Kyiv residents seeking shelter underground. (The Associated Press)
“Russian forces are bypassing major Ukrainian population centres while leaving forces to encircle and isolate them,” the ministry said.
11:10 a.m.: Canada’s Minister of Science, Innovation and Industry François-Philippe Champagne said that he is looking into concerns that some gas providers might be exploiting the Ukranian crisis to raise prices.
“If there is evidence of unlawful behaviour in the marketplace, I will use all the tools at my disposal to help make life more affordable for Canadians,” he wrote on Twitter Saturday.
11 a.m.: Russian airliners continue to fly through Canadian skies after several European countries shut their airspace to Russian carriers in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine — but Ottawa is keeping all options on the table.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says in a statement that Canada’s airspace remains open to Russian airlines “at this time,” but that the department is actively monitoring the situation and working with the United States and other key allies.
Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot operates multiple flights per day through Canadian airspace en route to the United States and beyond.
Aerospace consultant Ross Aimer says the passage marks a critical route for the airline, and that Russia would almost certainly retaliate to flyover bans in kind.
On Thursday, the United Kingdom suspended Aeroflot’s foreign carrier permit, with Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic following suit by closing their airspace to Russian planes.
Launched this week, Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine closed in on the capital of Kyiv on Saturday as troops struck the country from three sides.
9:25 a.m.: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told a news conference in the border town of Beregsurany that Hungary is accepting all citizens and legal residents of Ukraine, regardless of whether they are subject to military conscription into the Ukrainian armed forces.
“We’re letting everyone in,” Orban said. “I’ve seen people who have no travel documents, but we’re providing them too with travel documents. And we’re also allowing in those who have arrived from third countries after the proper screening.”
Several thousand refugees fleeing Ukraine have crossed into Hungary in recent days, entering through five border crossings along Hungary’s 137-kilometer (85-mile) border with Ukraine.
Hungary under Orban has in recent years firmly opposed all forms of immigration.
Regarded as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the European Union, Orban has pursued close economic and diplomatic ties with the Kremlin. But he said that Russia’s invasion of Hungary’s neighbour would likely cause changes in his relationship with Putin, and that Hungary was supporting all proposed sanctions against Moscow at the European level.
9:05 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted Saturday saying that Turkey has banned Russian warships from the passage to the Black Sea, while also providing “significant military and humanitarian support” to Ukraine.
8:55 a.m.: China is the only friend that might help Russia blunt the impact of economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, but President Xi Jinping’s government is giving no sign it might be willing to risk its own access to U.S. and European markets by doing too much. Beijing’s ability to support President Vladimir Putin by importing more Russian gas and other goods is limited.
Relations with Moscow have warmed under Xi, motivated by shared resentment of Washington. The United States and the 27-nation European Union promised crippling trade and financial penalties after Moscow’s invasion. Experts say Xi’s government might support Putin within those limits but will balk at openly violating sanctions and being targeted for penalties.
8:52 a.m.: Russia claims its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets, but civilians have been killed and injured during Europe’s largest ground war since World War II.
Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said Saturday that 198 people have been killed and more than 1,000 others have been wounded in the Russian offensive. It was not clear whether the figure in his statement included both military and civilians.
He said a further 1,115 people, including 33 children, were wounded in the Russian invasion.
A missile struck a highrise apartment building in the city’s southwestern outskirts near one of Kyiv’s two passenger airports, Mayor Klitchsko said, leaving a jagged hole of ravaged apartments over several floors. A rescue worker said six civilians were injured.
After 8 p.m. on Friday, a large boom was heard near Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the square in central Kyiv. And the mayor said five explosions struck near a major power plant just outside the city. The causes of the explosions was not immediately known.
8:50 a.m.: Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov claimed Saturday that since the start of Russia’s attack, its military had hit 821 Ukrainian military facilities, 87 tanks and other targets.
Konashenkov didn’t say how many Ukrainian troops were killed and didn’t mention any casualties on the Russian side. Neither his claims nor Ukraine’s allegations that its forces killed thousands of Russian troops could be independently verified.
Konashenkov claimed that the Russian military has taken full control of the southern city of Melitopol, about 35 kilometres inland from the Azov Sea coast, and said Russia-backed separatists have made significant gains in the eastern region of Donbas.
8:50 a.m.: Kyiv officials are warning residents that street fighting is underway against Russian forces. They advised residents to remain in shelters or if home to avoid going near windows or onto balconies, and to take precautions against being hit by debris or bullets.
The Ukrainian military said a battle was underway near a military unit to the west of the city centre. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said new explosions shook the area near a major power plant that the Russians were trying to attack.
A missile slammed into a highrise building on the southwestern outskirts of Kyiv, Klitschko said Saturday. He said rescue workers were heading there and posted an image on a messaging app, showing a gaping hole on one side of the building.
8:45 a.m.: Ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda in Berlin Saturday afternoon, Poland’s prime minister has urged Germany to put aside “selfishness” and “egoism” and offer substantive support to the people of Ukraine.
“Nothing is going to stop Putin if we are not decisive enough,” Mateusz Morawiecki said in Berlin. “This is a very historic moment… we have no time to lose.”
Morawiecki said Germany’s aid thus far — of military helmets, not weapons — is a far cry from what’s necessary to help Ukraine defend itself.
“What kind of help was delivered to Ukraine? Five thousand helmets? This must be a joke,” Morawiecki said.
He added that the sanctions on Russia need to be “crushing,” calling for the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT global financial system and for measures targeting Putin himself, oligarchs who back him, and Russian business more broadly.
8:43 a.m.: Slovakia’s defence minister says up to 1,200 foreign troops from other NATO members could be deployed in his country in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The plan is part of the NATO initiative to reassure member countries on the alliance’s eastern flank by sending forces to help protect them. Slovakia borders Ukraine.
Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said forces from the Netherlands and Germany are among those expected to come. Germany will also provide the Patriot system to boost Slovakia’s air defence.
The country’s government and Parliament have not yet approved the plan.
Nad also sadi his country’s government has approved sending arms and fuel worth 11 million euros ($12.4 million) requested by Ukraine. The aid will include 10 million litres (2.6 million gallons) of fuel, 2.4 million litres (630,000 gallons) of aviation fuel and 12,000 pieces of ammunition.
8:27 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin is the latest target of sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, with the United States, Canada and European allies announcing they are adding direct measures against him and his foreign minister. Russia on Saturday warned it could react by opting out of its last remaining nuclear arms pact and cutting diplomatic ties.
With Russian forces on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital, diplomatic appeals appeared to come second to imposing financial pain on Russia as global condemnation — and frustration — grew.
“This war will last, and all the crises that go with it will have durable consequences,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.
Acknowledging the same, the Biden administration said it was sending Ukraine up to $350 million in arms and other defensive supplies from U.S. Department of Defense stockpiles, with another $250 million in defensive support possible. The Czech Republic also approved a plan to send more arms to Ukraine.
8:22 a.m.: From Tokyo to London to Taipei, Ukrainians living abroad and hundreds of protesters have turned out on the streets to join anti-war rallies spreading around the world as Russia’s troops pressed toward Ukraine’s capital.
Several hundred Ukrainians living in Japan gathered outside of Tokyo’s main train stations Saturday, chanting “Stop war!” and “Peace for Ukraine.” They held up signs including “No war,” “Stop Putin, Stop Russia,” while others waved Ukrainian flags. At a separate rally reportedly organized by Russian residents in Japan, several dozen people chanted “Hands off Ukraine!”
In Taiwan, more than 100 demonstrators chanting “Stand with Ukraine” and “Glory to Ukraine” protested outside the Russian representative office in Taiwan on Saturday.
8:20 a.m.: The U.S. is seriously considering whether to seek Russia’s expulsion from the SWIFT financial messaging system over Ukraine invasion as allies in Europe warm to the idea of imposing a penalty that seemed unlikely just days ago, according to people familiar with the matter.
Biden administration officials are now debating whether to push for a directive from the European Union needed to ban Russia from SWIFT, though a U.S. and EU decision is not imminent, according to the people. Officials are discussing the matter with the Federal Reserve, which sits on SWIFT’s oversight body, two of the people said. Another person said talks have commenced with the European Commission.
The discussions by the U.S. mark a change in course after President Joe Biden said he was holding off because European allies had voiced concerns over the risk such a move posed to their economies.
But as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues a full-scale invasion of Ukraine that’s now advancing on Kyiv, officials in the U.S. and Europe are seeking tougher consequences against Moscow on top of the sanctions they’ve already unveiled.
All of the people discussed the matter on condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations. The U.S. National Security Council press office and Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith declined to comment.
The chances of a move on SWIFT have been a moving target, and the likelihood remains unclear. While previously a faint prospect, the measure has grown more likely in the past few days, the people said, fuelling the belief that it now could happen, though they stopped short of predicting it would.
7:48 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country’s armed forces are successfully fighting back against Russian troops.
Zelenskyy said in a video released Saturday that Russian attempts to forge into Kyiv have been repelled and Moscow’s plan to quickly seize the capital and install a puppet government has been thwarted. In an emotional speech, he accused the Russian forces of hitting civilian areas and infrastructure.
Zelenskyy pushed for Ukraine’s urgent ascension to the European Union, saying he discussed the issue with the EU leaders. He also urged cutting Russia from the SWIFT international electronic bank payment system, noting that Germany and Hungary should show “courage” and agree to the move.
7:47 a.m.: Italian Premier Mario Draghi has called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to make clear the Italian government supports any moves to cut Russia off from the SWIFT international payment system.
A day earlier, Draghi’s finance minister raised doubts Italy would go along with such a move because that would complicate payments to the Russians for natural gas. Italy gets some 45% of its gas from Russia.
7:45 a.m.: Russian troops pressed toward Ukraine’s capital Saturday after a night of explosions and street fighting sent Kyiv residents seeking shelter underground. The country’s leader refused an American offer to evacuate, insisting he would stay. “The fight is here,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
It was not immediately clear how far Russian troops had advanced. Ukrainian officials reported some success in fending off assaults, but fighting persisted near the capital. Skirmishes reported on the edge of the city suggested that small Russian units were trying to clear a path for the main forces.
Russia claims its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets, but civilians have been killed and injured during Europe’s largest ground war since World War II.
A missile struck a highrise apartment building in the city’s southwestern outskirts near one of Kyiv’s two passenger airports, Mayor Vitali Klitchsko said, leaving a jagged hole of ravaged apartments over several floors. A rescue worker said six civilians were injured. The mayor extended a 10 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew he imposed two days to run from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. as of Saturday.
Saturday’s street clashes followed two days of massive air and missile strikes as Russian soldiers moved in from the north, east and south. The assault pummeled bridges, schools and residential neighbourhoods, and resulted in hundreds of casualties.
It was unclear in the fog of war how much of Ukraine was still under Ukrainian control and how much Russian forces have seized. Russia’s defence ministry claimed the Russian military had taken full control of the southern city of Melitopol, about 35 kilometres inland from the Azov Sea coast, and said Russia-backed separatists had made significant gains in the eastern region of Donbas.
Ukrainian and Western officials, however, say Ukrainian forces have managed to slow the Russian advance. Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said a Russian missile was shot down before dawn Saturday as it headed for the dam of the sprawling water reservoir that serves Kyiv.
Western officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with a regime of his own. The invasion represented Putin’s boldest effort yet to redraw the map of Europe and revive Moscow’s Cold War-era influence. It triggered new international efforts to end the invasion, including direct sanctions on Putin.
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