The latest on the Russia-Ukraine crisis:
PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron says France and its European allies did everything to try to head off the attack on Ukraine. He said that they will show “no weakness” in their response.
Macron said in a televised address to the nation Thursday that Russia’s attack is a “turning point in European history” and as a result “there will be profound consequences for our continent and changes in our lives.”
He said that “to this act of war, we will reply without weakness, we will reply calmly and in a determined and united manner.”
“We have tried everything to avoid this war but it is here and we are ready,” Macron said.
He said that sanctions will be “proportionate” to Russia’s military operations, targeting its economy and its energy sector.
“We will show no weakness,” Macron said. “We will take all measures necessary to defend the sovereignty and stability of our European allies.”
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — The Slovak government has authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 soldiers to help guard the border with Ukraine following Russia’s attack on Slovakia's eastern neighbor.
The defense ministry said Thursday they will be used if there is a massive wave of refugees.
The government said Slovakia is also ready to open more border crossings with Ukraine if needed.
Slovania last week lifted all coronavirus restrictions for potential refugees coming from Ukraine in the case of a Russian invasion.
ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says Russia’s attack on Ukraine has made dialogue with Moscow “impossible.” He is demanding that Putin “immediately stop the bloodshed and withdraw military forces.”
Speaking after an urgent Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Draghi said Russia’s operation “concerns all of us, our way of living freely, our democracy.”
He said Italy, which has kept its embassy in Kyiv open, fully supported “very strong” sanctions against Russia and was coordinating with NATO and EU allies to beef up security on NATO’s eastern flank. He said that "we are reinforcing our already significant contribution to the military deployments in all the most directly exposed Allied countries.”
HELSINKI — Latvian authorities say three Russian television channels will have their right to broadcast in Latvia suspended for several years with immediate effect. They cited the channels' incitement to hatred against Ukraine, justification of war and spreading of disinformation on Ukraine, Latvia and other countries.
Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council said Thursday that there will be a ban on broadcasts of the Rossija RTR channel for five years, Rossija 24 channel for four years and TV Centr International for three years.
European Union and NATO member Latvia is urging other European nations to make a similar decision.
“We are calling on all European Union member countries to use the evidence we have collected, follow our example and ban these three (Russian) channels in the entire territory of the EU,” said the council’s chairman, Ivars Abolins.
He said that “in the last several years, we have closed 41 programs associated with Russia. Unfortunately, other European countries have not done the same.”
GENEVA — The head of the U.N. refugee agency is warning of “devastating consequences” of Russia’s military action in Ukraine and calling on neighboring countries to keep their borders open for people fleeing the fighting.
Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, pointed to “reports of casualties and people starting to flee their homes to seek safety” without elaborating.
He said in a statement that UNHCR had stepped up its operations and capacity in Ukraine and its neighboring countries, without providing details.
KYIV, Ukraine — Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, says that “Russia’s key goal is clear: to oust the Ukrainian leadership and stir up as much panic as possible.”
Podolyak said Thursday the Russians “want to cut off part of the country and they moving in in big convoys.”
He said that “we are seeing attempts to estabilize the situation in big cities, including Kyiv and Kharkiv.”
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Russia's military actions in Ukraine violate international laws and amount to a “heavy blow” to regional peace and stability.
In an address to an international gathering in Ankara on Thursday, Erdogan said Turkey -- which has enjoyed close ties to both Russia and Ukraine — “sincerely regrets” that the two countries are confronting each other.
“We reiterate our call for a resolution of the problems between Russia and Ukraine, with which we have deep historical ties and friendly relations, through dialogue, within the framework of Minsk agreements,” Erdogan said. He was referring to deals that aimed to restore peace in eastern Ukraine.
The Turkish leader said Turkey would “do its part to ensure the safety of everyone living in Ukraine,” including Turkish citizens and Crimean Tatars, with whom Turkey shares ethnic and cultural bonds.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin has “unleashed war in our European continent” and Britain “cannot and will not just look away.”
In a televised address Thursday, Johnson said the U.K. and its allies will agree a “massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy.”
“Our mission is clear: diplomatically, politically, economically and eventually militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure,” Johnson said.
He is expected to give more details about new sanctions later Thursday.
“A vast invasion is underway by land by sea and by air,” Johnson said. “(Putin) has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse.”
The prime minister also said that the West must collectively end its dependence on Russian oil and gas, which “for too long has given Putin his grip on western politics.”
GENEVA — The head of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning anti-nuclear group says a warning from Russian President Vladimir Putin to anyone who might meddle in Russia’s attack on Ukraine amounted to a threat to “launch a nuclear war.”
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, was referring to the Russian leader’s comments as the attack began that “whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history.”
Fihn, whose group won the Nobel prize in 2017, said Russia had manufactured a “false justification” for its military action in Ukraine and said Putin’s warning was “basically to launch a nuclear war.”
She alluded to recent tests by Russia of intercontinental ballistic missiles and hypersonic missiles, saying that they smacked of “basically the Russian military practicing mass-murdering civilians.”
BUCHAREST, Romania — The president of Romania has condemned Russia’s “reprehensible” attack on Ukraine and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “threatens the peace of the entire planet.”
Romania borders Ukraine and is a member of NATO and the European Union. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that Russia “chose the reprehensible and completely illegal path of massive armed violence against an independent and sovereign state.”
Iohannis said that Romania, a country of about 19.5 million people, is ready to deal with economic and humanitarian consequences that the conflict could generate.
He stressed that Romania will not be drawn into the military conflict in Ukraine and said Romanian authorities will take “absolutely all the necessary measures” to ensure the safety of the country’s citizens.
PRAGUE — Czech President Milos Zeman, who has been a leading pro-Russian voice among European Union leaders, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “an unprovoked act of aggression.”
Zeman said in an address to the nation that “Russia has committed a crime against peace.”
A week ago, Zeman said that warnings of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine were a failure by CIA. He said repeatedly he didn’t believe Russian wanted to attack Ukraine.
“I admit I was wrong,” Zeman said Thursday. “An irrational decision by the leadership of the Russian Federation will cause significant damages to the Russian state.”
He called for harder sanctions against Russia, declaring that “it’s necessary to isolate a lunatic and not just to defend ourselves by words but also by deeds.”
BRUSSELS — NATO’s secretary-general says Russia has launched war on Ukraine and shattered peace on the European continent.
Jens Stoltenberg called for a summit of NATO alliance leaders for Friday.
Stoltenberg said that “this is a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion.” And he charged that “Russia is using force to try to rewrite history.”
Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine earlier Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling. Ukraine’s government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border.
HELSINKI — NATO member Lithuania, which has borders with Russian ally Belarus and Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, has declared a state of emergency effective early Thursday afternoon due to the situation in Ukraine.
The decree signed Thursday by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda steps up border protection. It gives authorities, among other things, the right to check and inspect vehicles, persons and luggage in the border area.
Lithuania also borders fellow NATO and European Union members Poland and Latvia.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine, calling it a “dark day for Europe” and expressing his country’s “full solidarity with Kyiv.”
Scholz said in a statement at the chancellery in Berlin on Thursday that new sanctions to be imposed on Russia by Germany and its allies would show that “Putin has made a serious mistake with his war.”
Addressing NATO allies in eastern Europe, Scholz said Germany understood their worries in light of the latest developments and stands by its commitments within the alliance.
Scholz said he and French President Emmanuel Macron proposed soon holding an in-person meeting of the heads of government of NATO member states.
BRUSSELS — NATO has agreed to beef up its land, sea and air forces on its eastern flank near Ukraine and Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military offensive in Ukraine.
NATO ambassadors said in a statement after emergency talks Thursday that “we have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies.”
While some of NATO’s 30 member countries are supplying arms, ammunition and other equipment to Ukraine, NATO as an organization is not. It will not launch any military action in support of Ukraine.
Countries closest to the conflict – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – are among those to have triggered rare consultations under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which can be launched when “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the (NATO) parties is threatened.”
“We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defense across the Alliance,” the envoys said in a statement. “Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.”
KYIV, Ukraine -- An adviser to Ukraine’s president says that Russian forces forged 10-20 kilometers (6-12 miles) deep into the Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine and are regrouping to continue the offensive.
But Oleksiy Arestovich said Thursday that “Kyiv is under reliable protection” and “they will face tough battles.”
Arestovich said that fighting is going on 4-5 kilometers (2 1/2-3 miles) north of Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, in the country’s northeast. He said Ukrainian troops destroyed four Russian tanks there.
The adviser said that Russian troops that moved into Ukraine from Russian-annexed Crimea are trying to advance toward Melitopol and Kherson.
JERUSALEM— Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “a grave violation of the international order.”
Lapid told reporters on Thursday that Israel is prepared to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine and urged Israeli citizens to leave the country.
“Israel is a country well-versed in war. War is not the way to resolve conflicts,” he said, adding that there was still a chance for a negotiated solution.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Moldova’s president says the country’s Supreme Security Council has decided to ask parliament to introduce a state of emergency following Russia’s attack on neighbouring Ukraine.
President Maia Sandu said Thursday that Russia's attack on Ukraine is a “flagrant violation of international norms.”
Sandu urged Moldovan citizens in Ukraine to return home. Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, has a population of around 3.5 million and is not a NATO member.
There are now concerns in Moldova that the neighboring conflict could trigger an influx of refugees. Sandu said that “at the border crossing points with Ukraine there is an increase in traffic flow.”
She added that “we will help people who need our support. At this moment, we are ready to accommodate tens of thousands of people.”
KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukraine’s president says about 40 people have been killed so far in the Russian attack on the country.
Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that several dozen people have been wounded.
He didn’t specify whether the casualties included civilians.
Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian authorities will hand weapons to all those willing to defend the country.
“The future of the Ukrainian people depends on every Ukrainian,” he said, urging all those who can defend the country to come to the Interior Ministry’s assembly facilities.
ANKARA, Turkey — Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey has called on the NATO member country to close its airspace and to shut down the straits at the entrance of the Black Sea to Russian ships.
“We are calling for the airspace, Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to be closed,” Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar told reporters on Thursday. “We have conveyed our relevant demand to the Turkish side. At the same time, we want sanctions imposed on the Russian side.”
A 1936 convention gives Turkey control over the straits connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, and allows it to limit the passage of warships during wartime or if Turkey is threatened.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan convened an emergency security meeting to discuss the Russian attack on Ukraine.
Turkey, which enjoys close relations with both Ukraine and Russia, had been pressing for a diplomatic solution to the tensions.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says his country has cut diplomatic ties with Russia after it was attacked.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the decision to rupture ties with Moscow on Thursday after it launched a massive air and missile attack on its neighbor and Russian forces were seen rolling into Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials say the country’s military is fighting back and asked for Western defense assistance.
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian presidential adviser says that Russian forces have launched an attack on Ukraine from the north, east and south. The adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said “the Ukrainian military is fighting hard.”
Podolyak said Thursday that "our army is fighting back inflicting significant losses to the enemy.” He said that there have been civilian casualties, but didn’t give details.
He said that “Ukraine now needs a greater and very specific support from the world — military-technical, financial as well as tough sanctions against Russia,” he said.
Another adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia has targeted air bases and various other military infrastructure.
BEIJING — China’s customs agency on Thursday approved imports of wheat from all regions of Russia, a move that could help to reduce the impact of possible Western sanctions imposed over Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
The two governments announced an agreement Feb. 8 for China to import Russian wheat and barley after Russian President Vladimir became the highest-profile foreign guest to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics.
China’s populous market is a growth area for other farm goods suppliers, but Beijing had barred imports until now from Russia’s main wheat-growing areas due to concern about possible fungus and other contamination.
Russia is one of the biggest wheat producers but its exports would be vulnerable if its foreign markets block shipments in response to its attack on Ukraine.
Thursday’s announcement said Russia would “take all measures” to prevent contamination by wheat smut fungus and would suspend exports to China if it was found.
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The Associated Press