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Ukrainian soldiers walk past debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.

Ukrainian soldiers walk past debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The latest on the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

BERLIN — Germany officials said Saturday that the country is preparing to close its airspace to Russian planes.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing backs such a measure and has ordered all preparations for this to be undertaken, his ministry said on Twitter.

Hours earlier, a German-registered DHL cargo plane made a sharp turn back out of Russian airspace, according to air traffic monitoring website FlightAware.com.

Report: Ukraine leader asked Swiss to mediate

GENEVA — A respected Swiss newspaper is reporting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked his Swiss counterpart on Saturday to act as a neutral mediator between Ukraine and Russia, and help work toward a ceasefire between the two countries.

Daily Tages Angeizer said the request of Swiss President Ignazio Cassis came in the context of the upcoming Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva starting on Monday, at which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to attend on Tuesday.

The report, which was not immediately confirmed by the Swiss Foreign Ministry that Cassis also leads, cited Swiss experience with such issues — notably a mediation effort carried out by Switzerland after Russian forces seized control of Crimea in 2014.

Ministry spokesman Andreas Heller told The Associated Press late Saturday that he could not immediately confirm whether any such communication had taken place between the two presidents, but said Switzerland was ready to offer its “good offices” for any such initiative.

EU ministers to weigh more sanctions on Russia

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat says he’s calling an urgent meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers on Sunday to weigh yet more measures against Russia as it wages its military campaign in Ukraine.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted Saturday that “I am convening a virtual meeting of EU foreign ministers (Sunday) at 18.00 (Central European Time, 1700 GMT) to adopt further measures in support of Ukraine, against aggression by Russia.”

Borrell says he will propose to the ministers that they endorse “a package of emergency assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, to support them in their heroic fight.”

It will be third time the ministers have met in a week. Previously they have endorsed two packages of sanctions; one raft targeting Russians involved in the recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, and another hitting Russia’s economy, and freezing the assets of the president and foreign minister.

Russia space agency ends cooperation

BERLIN — Russia’s space agency said Saturday that it is suspending cooperation with its European partners in response to EU sanctions.

In a Twitter post, Roscosmos said it would withdraw its personnel from the European space port in Kourou, French Guiana.

Several European satellites have been launched with Soyuz rockets from Kourou, and more were scheduled over the coming year.

Thierry Breton, a senior EU official who oversees the 27-nation bloc’s space policy, said Roscosmos’ decision would have “no consequence on the continuity and quality” of its flagship Galileo global positioning system or the Copernicus program of Earth observation satellites.

Breton said the EU would strive to develop the Ariane 6 and VegaC launchers “to ensure Europe’s strategic autonomy.”

Baltic nations seek to shut airspace to Russia

HELSINKI — The Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have decided to close their airspace to Russian airlines, transport officials in the three countries say.

The legal formulation for the measure is underway and it wasn’t immediately clear when precisely the ban would take effect.

Lithuanian Transport Marius Skuodis told media outlets that the goal of the Baltic countries is to issue the ban at the same time.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted on Saturday that Western nations should isolate Russia both economically and politically after its invasion on Ukraine, saying “there is no place for planes of the aggressor state in democratic skies.”

Latvian Transport Minister Talis Linkaits told local news agency LETA that the country’s decision to close its airspace to Russian airlines will be made in coordination with Estonia, Lithuania and the EU.

Curfew in Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine — The authorities in the Ukrainian capital say a curfew in the city will last through early Monday as Russian troops are pressing the offensive into Kyiv.

The city authorities previously announced the curfew to last from 5 pm to 8 am, but then clarified the order and specified that it will last from Friday afternoon until Monday’s morning to keep people indoors through the day Sunday.

The measure comes as the Ukrainian authorities reported fighting with small groups of Russian troops that infiltrated the city. More Russian troops are closing in on Kyiv.

Some grocery stores were open until the curfew went into effect. The array of goods was thin. The concern for now is how long stockpiles will last. Some pharmacies were similarly open, but there were reports that new shipments from distributors had halted.

In addition, the Interfax news agency reported that Ukraine’s three major cellphone service providers have blocked access for Russian SIM cards.

Germany sends additional ship

VIENNA — Germany has sent an additional ship to NATO’s eastern front, the German army announced Saturday.

In addition to deployments of additional soldiers, armored fighting vehicles, anti-missile systems and two ships, which Germany’s Defense Ministry confirmed Friday, Germany has dispatched the Alster reconnaissance ship.

The ship left Eckernförde on Germany’s Baltic Coast on Saturday and will contribute to electronic intelligence-gathering in the Baltic Sea and along the coast.

“The German Navy, the Bundeswehr and the entire alliance now need a reliable picture of the situation,” Vice Admiral Jan C. Kaack, Commander of the Fleet, said in a statement. “In addition to other activities, the Navy also contributes to this with the Alster.”

Miles-long lines of cars clog Ukraine borders

MEDYKA, POLAND — Lines of vehicles miles long are clogging border crossings out of Ukraine, as tens of thousands rush to neighboring countries to escape danger from invading Russian troops.

Nearly 120,000 people have so far fled Ukraine into Poland and other neighboring countries in the wake of Russian invasion, the U.N. refugee agency said Saturday. The largest numbers were arriving in Poland, where 2 million Ukrainians have already settled to work in recent years. Poland’s government said Saturday that more than 100,000 Ukrainians had crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border in the past 48 hours alone.

One family from Chernivtsi in western Ukraine waited 20 hours before being able to cross the border into Siret in northern Romania.

At the border town of Medyka, the line of vehicles waiting to enter Poland stretched many miles into Ukraine. A woman from Lviv, who was bringing her four children to safety in Poland, described toys and bags along the way that were so heavy that people abandoned them.

US official: Russians about 30km outside Kiev

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A senior U.S. defense official says the United States estimates that more than 50% 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 kilometers outside Kiev 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 forces are bypassing major Ukrainian population centres while leaving forces to encircle and isolate them,” the ministry said.

Hungary will accept Ukraine citizens

BEREGSURANY, Hungary — 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 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 neighbor would likely cause changes in his relationship with Putin, and that Hungary was supporting all proposed sanctions against Moscow at the European level.

Lithuanian president urges Germany to help more

VIENNA — Ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda in Berlin on 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.

Cargo ship intercepted

French officials say marines patrolling the English Channel area have intercepted a cargo ship sailing under the Russian flag and escorted it to the port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer for an investigation.

The interception of the ship, carrying cars, early Saturday was triggered by financial sanctions levied days ago against Russia for its invasion of the Ukraine. Maritime spokesperson Veronique Magnin said it appeared to be the first such action in the English Channel.

The approximately 427-foot ship was headed from Rouen, in Normandy, to Saint Petersburg, and was stopped near Honfleur, Magnin said.

Customs officials carrying out the investigation were verifying if the vessel is indeed linked to Russian financial interests, the spokesperson said. The process could take up to 48 hours.

The French government has given maritime officials the power to intercept vessels suspected of contravening the sanctions, she said.

Ukraine health minister: 198 killed, 1,000 wounded in Russian offensive

The Ukrainian health minister says that 198 people have been killed and more than 1,000 others have been wounded in the Russian offensive.

Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said Saturday that there were three children among those killed. His statement made it unclear whether the casualties included both military and civilians.

He said another 1,115 people, including 33 children, were wounded in the Russian invasion that began Thursday with massive air and missile strikes and troops forging into Ukraine from the north, east and south.

120,000 Ukrainian refugees have left the country

The UN refugee agency says that over 120,000 Ukrainian refugees have left the country since Russia began its attack on its neighboring country this week.

Speaking as Russian troops were engaging in battle with Ukrainian forces in the capital Kyiv on Saturday, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, said in an interview on CNN the situation was expected to get worse.

"We now see over 120,000 people that have gone to all of the neighboring countries," she said. "The reception that they are receiving from local communities, from local authorities, is tremendous. But it's a dynamic situation. We are really quite devastated, obviously, with what's to come."

Most are heading to Poland and Moldova, but also to Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.

Macron: ‘This war will last’

French President Emmanuel Macron says he is convinced that "this war will last" and warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine will have tough consequences for Europeans.

Macron told farmers at France's Agricultural Fair in Paris on Saturday that sectors from wine to cereals to exports and energy prices will be affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"War has returned to Europe. This war was unilaterally chosen by Putin," he said of the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. "This war will last and all the crises that go with it will have durable consequences," Macron said. "We must prepare ourselves with lots of determination and also lots of solidarity."

He said a "plan of resilience" was being put in place, but did not elaborate.

The European Union, along with the U.S. and numerous other countries, has announced sanctions against Russia.

Dutch government moves embassy staff out of Ukraine

The Dutch government has shifted its embassy staff out of Ukraine amid Russia's military onslaught on its neighbor.

The foreign ministry announced early Saturday that ambassador Jennes de Mol and his staff, who had already moved from Kyiv to Lviv before Russia's invasion, will relocate to Jaroslaw, Poland.

The ministry said the diplomatic post that is helping Dutch citizens who want to leave Ukraine has been moved out of the country because of the deteriorating security situation in Lviv.

Protests around the world

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.

“My family, my friends are now sheltered in their basements because of the air attacks,” said Yulia Kolorova, a 49-year-old Ukrainian living in Taiwan. “I just want them to be strong. I just can’t imagine how scary it is to see the missiles over your head. It’s surreal.”


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