Ukraine waives entry visa requirements for foreigners willing to join fight against Russia
Move comes as first round of talks between the 2 countries ends with no agreement
- Ukrainian, Russian delegations conclude talks in Belarus with no immediate agreements.
- Ruble plummets as banks around the world, including Canada, freeze Russia out.
- U.S., other countries announce new sanctions targeting Russian central bank.
- ICC plans to open investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
- Kyiv's mayor says infrastructure to deliver food and medication is destroyed, with city nearing a "humanitarian catastrophe."
- What questions do you have about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ukraine's president has signed a decree temporarily lifting the requirement for entry visas for any foreigner willing to join Ukraine's International Defence Legion and fight on Ukraine's side against invading Russian troops.
The decree by President Volodymyr Zelensky takes effect on Tuesday and will remain in effect as long as martial law is in place.
The move came after a first round of talks aimed at stopping the fighting between Ukraine and Russia ended Monday with no agreement except to keep talking.
Ukraine's embattled president said stepped-up shelling across his country was aimed at forcing him into concessions.
"I believe Russia is trying to put pressure [on Ukraine] with this simple method," Zelensky said late Monday in a video address.
He did not offer details of the hours-long talks that took place earlier but said that Kyiv was not prepared to make concessions "when one side is hitting each other with rocket artillery."
Five days into Russia's invasion, the Kremlin again raised the spectre of nuclear war, while an increasingly isolated Moscow ran into unexpectedly fierce resistance on the ground and economic havoc at home.
Meanwhile, outgunned Ukrainian forces managed to slow the Russian advance, and Western sanctions began to squeeze the Russian economy, but the Kremlin again raised the spectre of nuclear war, reporting that its land, air and sea nuclear forces were on high alert following Putin's weekend order.
Stepping up his rhetoric, Putin denounced the U.S. and its allies as an "empire of lies."
International Criminal Court to investigate
A tense calm reigned in Kyiv, where people lined up to buy food, water and pet food after two nights trapped inside by a strict curfew while social media video from Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, showed residential areas being shelled, with apartment buildings shaken by repeated, powerful blasts.
The Russian military has denied targeting residential areas despite abundant evidence of shelling of homes, schools and hospitals.
Exact death tolls are unclear, but the UN human rights chief said 102 civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded in five days of fighting — warning that figure was likely a vast undercount. Ukraine's president said at least 16 children were among the dead.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says he plans to open an investigation "as rapidly as possible" into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement Monday night that the investigation will look at alleged crimes committed before the Russian invasion but said that "given the expansion of the conflict in recent days, it is my intention that this investigation will also encompass any new alleged crimes falling within the jurisdiction of my office that are committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine."
Russian currency plunges
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 ruble fell to fresh record lows on Monday while world stocks slid and oil prices jumped as the West ramped up sanctions against Russia over its Ukraine invasion, with steps including blocking banks from the SWIFT global payments system.
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.
UN chief calls nuclear threat 'chilling'
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, on Monday.
UN Secretary General António Guterres called Moscow's announcement Sunday that it was putting its nuclear defences on alert a "chilling development.
"The fighting in Ukraine must stop," he said.
What's happening on the ground?
Across Ukraine, terrified families huddled overnight in shelters, basements or corridors.
"I sit and pray for these negotiations to end successfully, so that they reach an agreement to end the slaughter," said Alexandra Mikhailova, weeping as she clutched her cat in a shelter in Mariupol on the coast of the Sea of Azov in the country's southeast.
Around her, parents tried to console children and keep them warm.
Kyiv, capital city
Satellite images taken on Monday showed a Russian military convoy — consisting of hundreds of armoured vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles — north of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and stretching for about 65 kilometres, substantially longer than the 25 kilometres reported earlier in the day, according to U.S. company Maxar Technologies.
Scattered fighting also continued around Kyiv. The mayor of the capital expressed doubt that civilians could be evacuated from the city. 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.
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.
Bucha, outside Kyiv
Burned-out military vehicles and charred bodies were seen on the streets of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, on Monday, evidence that a fierce battle had taken place between Russian soldiers advancing toward the capital and Ukrainian fighters trying to stop them.
Photos showed a blown-up bridge in the town, though it was unclear whether it had been bombed by Russian troops or destroyed by the Ukrainian side. Streets in the town were deserted and shops had been destroyed and looted.
Kharkiv, second-largest city
Video from Kharkiv, with a population of about 1.5 million, showed residential areas being shelled, with apartment buildings shaken by repeated, powerful blasts. Flashes of fire and grey plumes of smoke could be seen.
Footage released by the government from Kharkiv depicted what appeared to be a home with water gushing from a pierced ceiling. What looked like an undetonated projectile was on the floor.
Authorities in Kharkiv said at least seven people had been killed and dozens injured. They warned that casualties could be far higher.
Other cities and villages
Fighting raged in other towns and cities across the country.
The strategic port city of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, is "hanging on," said Zelenskyy adviser Oleksiy Arestovich. 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.
An oil depot was reported bombed in the eastern city of Sumy.
In the resort town of Berdyansk, also on the coast of the Sea of Azov, residents described the soldiers who captured their town Sunday as exhausted young conscripts.
"Frightened kids, frightened looks. They want to eat," Konstantin Maloletka, who runs a small shop, said by telephone.
The soldiers went into a supermarket and grabbed canned meat, vodka and cigarettes. "They ate right in the store," he said. "It looked like they haven't been fed in recent days."
Western border communities
The United Nations said on Monday that more than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries since the start of Russia's invasion.
Closing airspace to Russian aircraft
Greece on Monday joined a number of other European nations in closing its airspace to all Russian aircraft in line with a European Union decision.
Europe and Canada moved on Sunday to shut their airspace to Russian aircraft, an unprecedented step aimed at pressuring the Russian president to end his invasion of Ukraine.
Aeroflot said it would cancel all flights to European destinations after EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the European Union had decided to close its airspace to Russian traffic.
The United States is considering similar action but has yet to make a final decision, according to American officials.
Russia has closed its airspace to carriers from 36 nations, including European countries and Canada.
Sanctions on Russian central bank
The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday announced new sanctions targeting the Russian central bank and state investment funds. It said the move effectively immobilizes any assets of the central bank in the United States or held by Americans.
In Canada, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has announced that effective immediately, all Canadian financial institutions are "prohibited from engaging in any transaction with the Russian Central Bank," her department said in a statement on Monday.
"In addition, Canada is imposing an asset freeze and a dealings prohibition on Russian sovereign wealth funds," the statement said.
Europe's financial market on Monday began severing Russia's ties to its critical plumbing for trading, clearing and settling securities as sanctions on Moscow started to bite.
The president of neutral Switzerland said his country would adopt the EU's sanctions targeting Russians, including asset freezes, all but depriving well-heeled Russians of access to one of their favourite safe havens to park money.
"We are in an extraordinary situation where extraordinary measures could be decided," President Ignazio Cassis, who is also the country's foreign affairs minister, told a news conference in Bern on Monday.
Swiss neutrality remained intact, but "of course we stand on the side of Western values," he added.
Ukraine's minister of digital transformation said equipment to use SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service has arrived in his country.
Mykhailo Fedorov thanked SpaceX founder Elon Musk for the equipment in a Twitter post Monday that was accompanied by a photo of boxes on the back of a truck.
Musk replied with his own tweet saying: "You are most welcome."
The tech billionaire said over the weekend that Starlink was now "active" in Ukraine and more equipment to use it was on the way. That followed a public request from Fedorov for the service.
Starlink — here. Thanks, <a href="https://twitter.com/elonmusk?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@elonmusk</a> <a href="https://t.co/dZbaYqWYCf">pic.twitter.com/dZbaYqWYCf</a>—@FedorovMykhailo
Starlink is a satellite-based internet system that SpaceX has been building for years to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world. It markets itself as "ideally suited" for areas where internet service is unreliable or unavailable.
With files from Reuters