NATO leaders are abandoning Ukrainians to be killed by Russia, the country’s president said on Friday – shortly after a meeting at which a NATO no-fly zone was once again rejected.
Ukraine war: The latest
- Fire at Europe’s biggest nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia is put out after Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘nuclear terror’ in shelling the plant. Russian troops later take the reactors
- Diplomats from NATO, the EU and G7 will all meet in Europe today to discuss next moves to contain crisis
- Russia admits ‘limiting’ access to news websites including the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, independent Russian site Meduza and Germany’s Deutsche Welle, with Facebook blocked
- Russian lawmakers approve legislation providing up to 15 years in jail for any publication of fake news about the Russian armed forces
- Thirty-three people are killed as Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools, in the northern city of Chernihiv
- Russia and Ukraine agree to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from cities
- Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow’s advance is going ‘according to plan’
- Senior US Republican senator Lindsey Graham calls for ‘somebody in Russia’ to assassinate Putin
- Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky calls for direct talks with Putin as the ‘only way to stop the war’
- Russian forces take the Black Sea port of Kherson as it appears Moscow is trying to cut Ukraine’s access to the sea
- US and EU offer temporary protection for Ukrainian refugees so far numbering more than 1million
- Russians pack trains out of the country to Finland, fearful that it is their last chance to escape the impact of swingeing Western sanctions
- Sanctioned Russian oil giant Lukoil calls for a halt to fighting in Ukraine, one of the first major domestic firms to speak out
- Russian tech giant Yandex warns it may default on its debt after it was suspended from trading on New York’s digital stock exchange
- The China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank suspends business with Russia and Belarus in a sign of their deepening pariah status
- Ex-Soviet states Georgia and Moldova – which borders Ukraine’s threatened south – apply to join the EU
- The Beijing Winter Paralympics opens with Russian athletes banned
NATO foreign ministers held an extraordinary meeting in Brussels to address the escalating crisis in Ukraine, which concluded with representatives of the 30 countries agreeing that a no-fly zone above Ukraine was not an option.
They believe that putting NATO planes above Ukraine, to shoot down any Russian jets that enter Ukrainian airspace, would dramatically escalate the conflict and drag in ground troops from the U.S. and other countries.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the topic of a no-fly zone was ‘mentioned’ at Friday’s summit, but that the allies once again agreed there should not be NATO aircraft operating over Ukraine’s territory.
Yet a new Reuters/IPSOS poll on Friday showed three quarters of Americans surveyed wanted a no-fly zone above Ukraine.
And Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, told NATO leaders they were now responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians.
‘All the people who will die starting from this day will also die because of you,’ said Zelensky in a video message.
‘Because of your weakness, because of your disunity.
‘Is this the NATO we wanted? Is this the alliance you were building? … You will not be able to buy us off with liters of fuel for liters of our blood, shed for our common Europe, for our common freedom, for our common future,’ he added, referring to supplies NATO has delivered to Ukraine.
He called the ‘narrative’ that a no-fly zone would provoke Russia’s direct aggression ‘self-hypnosis of those who are weak, under-confident inside.’
Zelensky further accused NATO leadership of giving the ‘green light for further bombing of Ukrainian cities’.
He concluded, however, by thanking the world for their support, praising the ‘many countries’ who ‘help our state no matter what, from the first day of the invasion’.
Support for the Ukrainian government was solidifying in the United States.
The Reuters/IPSOS survey, conducted online and in English throughout the United States on Thursday and Friday, with 831 adults responding, ups the pressure on President Joe Biden to take more aggressive actions against Moscow – although he has dismissed the notion of no-fly zones because of the risk of open conflict between NATO and Russian forces.
It was not clear if respondents who supported a no-fly zone were fully aware of the risk of conflict, and majorities opposed the idea of sending American troops to Ukraine or conducting air strikes to support the Ukrainian army.
On Friday the United States flew B-52 Stratofortress bombers over NATO’s eastern flank above Romania, exercising with the German and Romanian militaries.
The largest strategic bombers in the US Air Force took off from RAF Fairford, a Royal Air Force station in England, and conducted ‘close air support and integration mission training’, according to a statement from US Air Forces in Europe.
A B-52 bomber is pictured arriving at RAF Fairford on February 10. On Friday the bombers took off for exercises with Germany and Romania, above Romania
The B-52s then flew to Romania, where they conducted more close air support training as part of the bomber task force (BTF) missions.
‘BTF rotations give us a critical opportunity to integrate and train with our allies and partners, especially during this difficult time,’ said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of United States Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa, and NATO’s Allied Air Command.
‘Training together ensures the defensive power of NATO remains unmatched,’ he said.
Some 74 percent of Americans – including solid majorities of Republicans and Democrats – said the United States and its NATO allies should impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine, the poll found.
An equally bipartisan 80 percent of Americans said the United States should stop buying Russian oil.
The White House on Friday said it was weighing cuts to U.S. imports of Russian oil, though it is proceeding cautiously, concerned about a spike in gasoline prices that would add to high inflation.
Moreover, 81 percent of Americans think Washington should impose additional sanctions on Russia, up from 77 percent in a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday. Support for more sanctions was also bipartisan.
Some 77 percent of respondents said the United States should seize the assets of Russian oligarchs associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin is pictured on Friday attending a ceremony of raising the national flag on the ‘Marshal Rokossovsky’ ferry in northern Russia, via a video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow. On Friday he cut off Facebook and Twitter and forced out independent media
Putin on Friday was moving to shut down independent media, forcing the BBC to leave the country and CNN to stop reporting.
He signed into effect new legislation imposing prison terms of up to 15 years for people charged with spreading ‘fake news’ about the military or calling for sanctions against the country.
Russia also cut access to Facebook, Twitter, and several news organizations’ websites, including the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for spreading what it says is false information about its actions in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Friday’s attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar was drawing worldwide condemnation.
The plant was under Russian control by Friday morning, after a tense night of heavy fighting.
Audio from inside the control room in Zaporizhzhia – Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which provided 20 percent of all Ukraine’s electricity – gave a sense of the panic among staff.
Workers could be heard desperately appealing to the Russians to stop shelling, warning them that they were risking a disaster.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has so far not registered any increase in radiation from around the site, but nuclear experts were warning that any shutting down of power to the plant could have dramatic consequences, stopping the cooling infrastructure with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said on Friday in New York: ‘By the grace of God, the world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night.’
And in Ukraine, the situation remained dire with Mariupol, on the Black Sea, still under siege and the residents of Odessa awaiting an expected amphibious attack at any moment.
Kherson, which fell to the Russians on Wednesday, remained the only major city under Russian control on Day 10 of the invasion.
Yet the capital Kyiv was still being attacked nightly, and an ominous convoy of Russian military vehicles which at one point stretched 40 miles long was only 25 miles out of the city center – stalled, for now.
Russia is poised to deploy up to 1,000 more mercenaries to Ukraine, CNN reported, amid stories of Putin’s growing frustration at the Ukrainian resistance and the slow pace of his invasion.
The U.S. has already seen ‘some indications’ that Russian mercenaries may be involved in Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine ‘in some places,’ a senior defense official said earlier this week.
Some 1.2 million people have already fled Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, according to the latest figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, with over half that number pouring into neighboring Poland.
‘Many more are on the move both inside and outside the country,’ the UNHCR said.
‘They are in need of protection and support. As the situation continues to unfold, an estimated 4 million people may flee Ukraine’.
Ukraine’s total population before the invasion was about 44 million.