State Department Urges Americans to Leave Russia Immediately
The U.S. State Department has updated an earlier travel advisory and is now recommending that U.S. citizens leave Russia immediately.
The notice offers this guidance: “If you wish to depart Russia, you should make arrangements on your own as soon as possible. If you plan to stay in Russia, understand the U.S. Embassy has severe limitations on its ability to assist U.S. citizens, and conditions, including transportation options, may change suddenly.”
The department already has advised Americans not to travel to Russia. That warning cites “the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine” and “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials,” among other things.
Zelensky Urges US Lawmakers to Ban Russian Oil, Provide Fighter Jets
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on March 5 urged U.S. lawmakers to step up support for his country by banning oil from Russia, helping secure fighter jets for the Ukrainian military, and imposing additional sanctions on Russian officials.
Zelensky held a virtual meeting with a bipartisan, bicameral group that was said to have numbered over 280 members of Congress.
Banning Russian oil and gas imports would be “even more powerful than SWIFT,” Zelensky told members, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, said on social media.
SWIFT is a banking system from which European Union countries have agreed to exclude Russian banks.
Zelensky also asked for anti-tank weapons and other military aid and assistance getting fighter jets from nearby countries transferred to Ukraine so Ukrainian pilots can use them to battle Russian fighters in the sky, according to members on the call.
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Visa, Mastercard Suspend All Operations in Russia
Two of the biggest payment processing firms in the world on March 5 announced they were suspending operations in Russia.
Mastercard and Visa said Russian banks would be cut off from their networks and their cards would not work at Russian merchants or ATMs.
“We don’t take this decision lightly. Mastercard has operated in Russia for more than 25 years. We have nearly 200 colleagues there who make this company so critical to many stakeholders. As we take these steps, we will continue to focus on their safety and well-being, including continuing to provide pay and benefits,” Mastercard said in an unsigned statement. “When it is appropriate, and if it is permissible under the law, we will use their passion and creativity to work to restore operations.”
Mastercard said it heard from employees, consumers, and shareholders before deciding on the course of action.
Al Kelly, chairman and chief executive officer of Visa, said in a statement that company executives were “compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed.”
“We regret the impact this will have on our valued colleagues, and on the clients, partners, merchants and cardholders we serve in Russia. This war and the ongoing threat to peace and stability demand we respond in line with our values,” he added.
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Russia-Ukraine Negotiations to Resume Monday
The third round of Russia–Ukraine negotiations will be held on Monday, one of the negotiators said.
Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia, who is also the parliamentary faction leader of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party, announced the development in a Facebook post.
The two sides have already finished two rounds of negotiations.
The first round ended up without any progress.
Russia and Ukraine agreed on Thursday in the second round of negotiations to set up humanitarian corridors for civilians to evacuate in Mariupol and Volnovakha.
However, the evacuation in Mariupol was halted because Russian forces allegedly breached the ceasefire.
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Putin Says Ukraine No-fly Zone Would Mean Participation in Conflict
Any country or entity that imposes a no-fly zone over Ukraine would immediately be viewed by Russia as entering the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia’s president said March 5.
“Now we are hearing that a no-fly zone must be established over the territory of Ukraine,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, adding that “any move in this direction will be viewed by us as a participation in the armed conflict of whichever side whose territory will pose a threat to our service members.”
“That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict and it would not matter what members they are,” Putin said, speaking to Aeroflot pilot trainees in the Moscow region.
After Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Ukrainian officials urged outside parties to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
Doing so would “protect the civilian population,” Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s former president, told reporters on Saturday. “We need it urgently, we need it now, just not allow Putin to destroy the whole world.”
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Ukraine Says Southeast Evacuations Halted
The Ukrainian president’s office says civilian evacuations have halted in an area of the country where Russian defense officials had announced a cease-fire.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said the evacuation effort was stopped because the city of Mariupol remained under fire on Saturday.
“The Russian side is not holding to the ceasefire and has continued firing on Mariupol itself and on its surrounding area,” he said. “Talks with the Russian Federation are ongoing regarding setting up a ceasefire and ensuring a safe humanitarian corridor.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier in a statement it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces for Mariupol, a strategic port in the southeast, and for the eastern city of Volnovakha.
But a city official reported that shelling continued in his area Saturday despite the deal, a sign of the fragility of efforts to stop fighting across the country.
Russia Announces Ceasefire in 2 Ukraine Areas for Evacuations
The Russian military is observing a ceasefire in two areas of Ukraine to allow civilians to evacuate, Russian state media reported Saturday, but there was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine. It would be the first breakthrough in allowing civilians to escape the war.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces to allow civilians to leave the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast and the eastern town of Volnovakha “from 10 a.m. Moscow time.” The vaguely worded statement did not make clear how long the routes would remain open.
The head of Ukraine’s security council, Oleksiy Danilov, had called on Russia to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women, and the older adults to get away from the fighting, calling such corridors “question No. 1.”
US B-52 Bombers Fly in Country Bordering Ukraine
U.S. B-52 bombers flew over a country that borders Ukraine, the U.S. military announced March 4.
The B-52 Stratofortress aircraft conducted a long-range “integration flight,” according to U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa.
The bombers took off from a base in England and headed to Germany to conduct an exercise alongside U.S. and German troops known as joint terminal attack controllers, who call strikes down from forward positions in the field.
The training mission included training in conjunction with Romania, a NATO ally that shares a border with Ukraine.
A critical opportunity to integrate and train with our allies and partners, especially during this difficult time,” Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa and NATO’s Allied Air Command, said in a statement.
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Blinken Arrives in Poland for Talks on Ukraine War
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine as the war enters its 10th day. Blinken arrived in Rzeszow on Saturday for talks with top Polish officials and was to visit a frontier post to meet Ukrainian refugees later in the day.
Blinken was meeting Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau a day after attending a NATO foreign minister’s meeting in Brussels at which the alliance pledged to step up support for eastern flank members like Poland to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although NATO has ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over non-member Ukraine, it has significantly boosted both military and humanitarian assistance. Rzeszow is about 80 km (50 miles) from the Ukrainian border and its airport has become a hub for flights carrying such aid.
Aeroflot Will Halt All International Flights Except to Belarus
Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship carrier, has announced that it will halt all international flights except to Belarus starting March 8.
The move by Russia’s biggest state-owned airline comes after the country’s aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, recommended that all Russian airlines with foreign-leased planes halt both passenger and cargo flights abroad.
It cited a high risk of foreign-leased planes being impounded as part of Western sanctions that ban leasing of planes to Russia.
Rosaviatsiya’s recommendation doesn’t apply to Russian airlines that use Russian planes or foreign planes that aren’t at risk of being impounded.
It also doesn’t apply to foreign airlines from countries that have not imposed sanctions on Russia and have not shut down their airspace for Russian planes. Aeroflot’s statement Saturday cited “circumstances that hinder operating flights” as a reason for its move.
Aeroflot said it would cancel return tickets for passengers who are scheduled to depart Russia after March 6 and travel back after March 8. Those with one-way tickets will be allowed to fly up until March 8. Earlier this week, S7, Russia’s biggest private airline, announced that it was halting all international flights starting Saturday.
Musk Says Starlink Told to Block Russian News
SpaceX founder Elon Musk says the company’s Starlink satellite internet service was “told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources.”
“We will not do so unless at gunpoint. Sorry to be a free speech absolutist,” Musk said in a post on Twitter.
Earlier this week, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation thanked Musk for providing equipment to access Starlink.
Mykhailo Fedorov thanked SpaceX founder Elon Musk for the equipment in a Twitter post accompanied by a photo of boxes on the back of a truck. Federov had publicly requested the service.
Musk replied with his own tweet saying: “You are most welcome.”
The tech billionaire has said Starlink was “active” in Ukraine and more equipment to use it was on the way.
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.
White House: Not Advocating for Russian Regime Change
The White House says it is not advocating to displace Vladimir Putin, in response to comments from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggesting the Russian president should be “taken out.”
Graham posted on Twitter Thursday that the only way the Russian conflict with Ukraine will end “is for somebody in Russia to take [Putin] out.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki went against Graham’s comments during a press briefing Friday afternoon.
“That is not the position of the United States government and certainly not a statement you’d hear come from the mouth of anybody working in this administration,” Psaki said. “We are not advocating for killing the leader of a foreign country or regime change. That is not the policy of the United States.”
Psaki has said throughout the Russian invasion into Ukraine that “a door to diplomacy remains open” with respect to Putin.
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Countries Flood Ukraine With Military Support
After Russia fired shots on Ukraine on Feb. 24, President Volodymyr Zelensky shared a video two days later saying he needs “ammunition, not a ride,” referring to the United States’ offer of asylum to the besieged head of state.
Since then, 15 countries have sent military hardware to Ukraine amid Russia’s further invasion.
The majority of arms and supplies from ally nations are being sent via Ukraine’s 310-mile border with Poland, which has become an important lifeline both for supplies and equipment, and refugees looking to flee the conflict.
Some border nations have chosen not to allow military equipment bound for Ukraine to pass through their territory out of fear of Russian retaliation.
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Allen Zhong, Nick Ciolino, Autumn Spredemann, Zachary Stieber, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.