Live: EU to spend €450m on arms for Ukraine, Putin puts nuclear forces on alert

What you need to know right now

  • Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet for talks at a venue on the Belarusian border with Ukraine, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said on Sunday.
  • The Kremlin earlier sent a diplomatic delegation to Belarus, which it said was awaiting talks with Ukrainian officials. Ukraine quickly rejected the offer, saying Belarus had been complicit in the invasion.
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered his military command to put Russia’s deterrence forces – units which include nuclear arms – on high alert, citing aggressive statements by Nato leaders and economic sanctions. The White House said it was part of a pattern of made-up threats.
  • Russian military vehicles pushed into Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv on Sunday and explosions rocked oil and gas installations on a fourth day of fighting in the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two.
  • Ukrainian forces are holding off Russian troops advancing on the capital Kyiv, president Volodymyr  Zelenskiy said, after a brutal night that saw the shelling of civilian infrastructure and attacks on everything, including ambulances.
  • Mr Zelenskiy said his nation had submitted an application against Russia to the International Court of Justice.
  • Refugees continued to pour across Ukraine’s western borders, with nearly 400,000 people seeking safety abroad.
  • While hundreds of thousands of refugees are leaving Ukraine, some Ukrainian men and women are returning home from across Europe to help defend their homeland.
  • At least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed, the head of Ukraine’s Health Ministry was quoted as saying. A UN relief agency said its estimates showed at least 64 civilians had been killed among 240 civilian casualties, but that the real numbers were likely “considerably higher”.
  • Ukraine is running out of oxygen supplies that critically ill people need, the World Health Organization said on Sunday, calling for safe passage for emergency imports
  • A Ukrainian road-maintenance company said it was removing all road signs to hinder invading Russian forces: “Let us help them get straight to hell.”
  • From Moscow to Siberia, Russian anti-war activists have taken to the streets again to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite the arrests of hundreds of protesters each day.
  • Western allies announced sweeping sanctions against Russia, including barring some key banks from the Swift payments system, with Japan also agreeing to enforce the measure. The move will inflict a crippling economic blow to Moscow but also hurt Western companies and banks.

5.45pm: Hungary’s interest is to stay out of the military conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban said on Sunday, reiterating that Hungary would not send weapons to neighbouring Ukraine but would help all refugees.

Mr Orban told state television that his government would focus on Hungary’s interests and make decisions that “allow us to stay out of this conflict and also that there should not be sanctions for which we have to pay the price in the end, even if we stay out of the conflict”.


5.30pm: Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that he needed to use every opportunity to secure peace, as Ukraine was due to meet with Russia for peace talks.

“I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try so that later not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as president, tried to stop the war, when there was even a small, but still a chance,” Mr Zelenskiy said.

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Meanwhile, Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday that Russian soldiers had been killed and wounded during an offensive in Ukraine, but added its losses were far lower than those suffered by Ukraine without specifying a number, the Interfax news agency reported.

Since the start of what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, armed forces have hit 1,067 Ukrainian military sites, Interfax cited the ministry as saying.


5pm: The European Commission aims to use €450 million of EU funds to finance arms deliveries to Ukraine, a Commission source told Reuters on Sunday.

An additional €50 million are meant to be spent on other equipment for Ukraine such as medical supplies, the source said.

Shortly before, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell confirmed ministers from member states will on Sunday evening consider a proposal to use common funds to finance weapons, fuel and medical supplies for Ukraine.

Mr Borrell said Russia has begun targetting more civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, but warned that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war is not against Ukraine alone.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen also said the EU will also shut down airspace to Russian aircraft, seek to ban Russian state-owned media in the bloc and target Russian ally Belarus with sanctions.


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4.40pm: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said talks with Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday were “very substantive”, with the Belarusian leader assuring his Ukrainian counterpart that his troops would not be moved into Ukraine.


4.05pm: A Ukrainian couple living in Limerick have told of how they are living in constant fear that their families in Ukraine will be killed. Andrej Mitigan (35), a civil engineer, said he is prepared to go back to Ukraine to help defend it and protect his parents and brother, who have taken up arms and are sleeping in basements to avoid Russian missile strikes.


3.55pm: Iskander missiles were launched from Belarus to Ukraine around 5pm (3pm Irish time), an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister said. It comes as Ukrainian and Russian officials are due to meet for talks at a venue on the Belarusian border with Ukraine.


3.50pm: Ukraine is running out of oxygen supplies that critically ill people need, the World Health Organisation said on Sunday, calling for safe passage for emergency imports as combat rages.

“The majority of hospitals could exhaust their oxygen reserves within the next 24 hours. Some have already run out. This puts thousands of lives at risk,” it said. Oxygen is essential for patients with a range of conditions, including the 1,700 in hospital with Covid-19.


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3.45pm: Russia denied on Sunday that talks with Ukraine had begun but said the two sides were arriving at the destination for negotiations, Interfax news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying.

The negotiations could possibly offer some room to try to de-escalate the crisis after Russia invaded Ukraine from several directions. Earlier, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said the talks had already begun.


3.35pm: In Ireland, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he hopes the world is seeing the “first step” towards the ending of war ahead of talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials. However, he added the meeting will not be enough to deter the EU from imposing fresh sanctions.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee meanwhile defended the decision to so far not expel the Russian ambassador to Ireland from the country, citing concerns for Irish citizens in Russia.


3.30pm: Russian president Vladimir Putin’s move to put Russian forces on high alert is dangerous and irresponsible and adds to the Russian leader’s aggressive pattern involving Ukraine, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday.

“This is dangerous rhetoric. This is a behaviour which is irresponsible. And of course when you combine this rhetoric with what they are doing on the ground in Ukraine – waging war against an independent, sovereign nation, conducting full-fledged invasion of Ukraine – this adds to the seriousness of the situation,” Stoltenberg said on CNN’s State of the Union programme.


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3.25pm: Police detained more than 900 people at anti-war protests that occurred in 44 Russian cities on Sunday, raising the total since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th to over 4,000, independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info said.


3.20pm: Russia dropped its preconditions for talks after suffering military setbacks, Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Sunday, adding that Ukraine would attend the talks to listen to what Russia had to say. Dmytro Kuleba also told a briefing that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s move to put nuclear forces on high alert was timed to put pressure on Ukraine during the negotiations.


3.15pm: The European Union needs to prepare for millions of Ukrainian refugees arriving in the bloc, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Sunday. “I think we need to prepare for millions,” she told reporters in Brussels, adding she was in favour of activating the EU’s temporary protection directive to provide shelter for those people coming to the EU.


3.12pm: Russian president Vladimir Putin’s order to put Russian nuclear forces on high alert is part of a pattern of Moscow manufacturing threats to justify aggression, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Sunday. “We’ve seen him do this time and time again. At no point has Russia been under threat from Nato, has Russia been under threat from Ukraine.”


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2.58pm: Finland will allow neighbouring Estonia to offer Ukraine Soviet-origin howitzer field guns that it had previously bought from Finland but not been allowed to sell on, Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen told reporters on Sunday.

Finland, which is not a Nato member, shares a long border with Russia and has previously maintained a policy of not allowing weapons to be exported to war zones. It will also directly donate 2,000 bulletproof vests, 2,000 helmets, 100 stretchers and equipment for two emergency medical care stations.


2.54pm: People fleeing war in Ukraine poured into central Europe on Sunday, with queues at border crossings stretching back for kilometres on the fourth day of a Russian invasion that has pushed nearly 400,000 people to seek safety abroad.

With men of conscription age prevented from leaving Ukraine, it is mostly women and children arriving at the border in eastern Poland, Slovakia and Hungary and in northern and northeastern Romania.


2.17pm: Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet for talks at a venue on the Belarusian border with Ukraine, the country’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said on Sunday.

The talks, the first since Russia unleashed a full scale invasion of Ukraine last week, would be held without preconditions and are the result of a phone call between Zelenskiy and the Belarusian president, Zelenskiy said.

“We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” he said in a statement.


1.30pm: Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered his military command to put Russia’s deterrence forces – a reference to units which include nuclear arms – on high alert, citing aggressive statements by Nato leaders and economic sanctions against Moscow.

“As you can see, not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures against our country in the economic dimension – I mean the illegal sanctions that everyone knows about very well – but also the top officials of leading Nato countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regards to our country,” Putin said on state television.


1.11pm: Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett offered on Sunday to mediate an end to the Ukraine hostilties during a phone conversation with Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said. The offer followed months of Ukrainian appeals to Israel to serve as intermediary. Israel has good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, and Bennett has been publicly restrained in remarks about the fighting in Ukraine.


12.58pm: Russia’s state communications regulator on Sunday said it had written to Alphabet Inc’s Google and demanded that access to Russian media’s YouTube channels be restored on Ukrainian territory. The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said it wanted all restrictions imposed on the Russian-language YouTube channels of media outlets RBC, TV Zvezda and Sputnik to be removed.


12.47pm: The mayor of Kyiv said on Sunday there were no Russian troops in the Ukrainian capital, which was holding its defence against attacks. Vitaly Klitschko said that in total 31 people died in the capital since the attacks started, including nine civilians, while 106 people had been injured. “Our military, law enforcement and territorial defence continue to detect and neutralize saboteurs,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.


12.22pm: Ukraine has filed a suit against Russia at the highest UN court in The Hague for disputes between states, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday. It was unclear on precisely what grounds the case was being brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). A court official could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Ukraine has submitted its application against Russia to the ICJ,” Zelenskiy said on Twitter. “Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression. We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now.”

Earlier, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said Ukraine would prove in a fair court that Russian president Vladimir Putin is “a main war criminal” of the 21st century.


12.11pm: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday said on his Telegram channel that he had spoken with Belarus’ leader Alexander Lukashenko, after Kyiv had rejected talks in Belarus, accusing it of allowing Russian troops through its territory. He provided no further details.


12.00pm: The Russian state prosecutor’s office said on Sunday that anyone providing financial or other assistance to a foreign state or international organisation aimed against Russia’s security could be convicted of treason, facing a maximum sentence of 20 years. “Each fact of providing financial or other assistance…will be legally evaluated,” it said.


11.55am: Ukraine will prove in a fair court that Russian president Vladimir Putin is “a main war criminal” of the 21st century, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told Ukrainian TV. Earlier, Ukraine said it had submitted an application against Russia to the International Court of Justice.


11.40am: A “heartbroken” Pope Francis called for humanitarian corridors to help refugees out of Ukraine and said those who make war should not be deluded into thinking that God is on their side. Speaking to people in St Peter’s Square, some holding large Ukrainian flags, he said his “heart is broken” by the war and condemned those who “trust in the diabolic and perverse logic of weapons”.


11.34am: Italy and the Netherlands have decided to close their airspace to Russian aircraft, joining a string of European countries including Ireland, Britain and Germany taking the same measure in response to the invasion of Ukraine.


11.24am: Ukraine has full control over Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv, the regional governor said on his social media on Sunday. “Control over Kharkiv is completely ours! The armed forces, the police, and the defense forces are working, and the city is being completely cleansed of the enemy,” Oleh Sinegubov wrote on Telegram.


11.17am: Some 368,000 people have fled abroad from the fighting in Ukraine, the UN refugee agency said on Sunday, citing data provided by national authorities. “The current total is now 368,000 and continues to rise,” UNHCR said via Twitter.


11.14am: More European countries have joined Ireland and others in closing their airspace to Russian air traffic, including Germany, Iceland and Denmark.


11.00am: European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will propose using EU funds to help finance weapons and other supplies such as fuel for Ukraine.

“I will propose to (EU foreign) ministers to use the European Peace Facility for two emergency assistance measures,” he said ahead of a virtual meeting to discuss fresh sanctions on Russia. “These aim to finance the supply of lethal material to the heroic Ukrainian army, which is fighting with fierce resistance against the Russian invaders and provide urgently needed non-lethal supplies, such as fuel.”


10.50am: The UN nuclear watchdog IAEA’s board of governors will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday on the situation in Ukraine, diplomats said on Sunday. IAEA Director General Mariano Grossi said on Saturday he was gravely concerned about Ukraine and called on all parties to refrain from actions that could jeopardise the security of nuclear material and facilities.


10.45am: British foreign minister Liz Truss said she would press for further measures against Russia, particularly in cutting off their oil and gas supplies, at a meeting with her counterparts in the G7 group of nations. “It doesn’t end here,” she told Times Radio, referring to the West’s move to block certain Russian banks’ access to the Swift international payment system, and warned Russian leaders they could be prosecuted for war crimes.


10.33am: Israel is sending 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including water-purification kits, medical equipment and tents, which will arrive within day. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his government is proceeding “with moderation and responsibility” on a conflict testing its ties to Kyiv and Moscow. He made no mention of Ukrainian appeals to Israel to mediate in the crisis with Russia.


10.15am: Russian forces have lost about 4,300 servicemen during their invasion of Ukraine, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said on Sunday, adding however that the number was being clarified. She also said on her Facebook page that Russian troops lost about 146 tanks, 27 aircraft and 26 helicopters.


10.05am: Ukrainian forces battled Russian troops on the streets of Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv on Sunday, the regional governor said. “The Russian enemy’s light vehicles have broken into Kharkiv, including the city centre,” Governor Oleh Sinegubov said. “Ukraine’s armed forces are destroying the enemy. We ask civilians not to go out.”

Videos published by Anton Herashchenko, adviser to the interior minister, and Ukraine’s state information agency showed several light military vehicles moving along a street and, separately, a burning tank. A witness in Kharkiv said Russian soldiers and armoured vehicles could be seen in different parts of the city and firing could be heard.

An adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday the situation has not changed significantly in Ukraine, with the country in control of the territory west of Kyiv and Russian troops not making any advance in the south.


9.40am: Russian president Vladimir Putin on Sunday thanked Russia’s special forces, singling out those who are “heroically fulfilling their military duty” in Ukraine, in a televised address that was also published on the Kremlin website.


9.30am: British foreign minister Liz Truss said on Sunday there could be no talks with Russia over Ukraine while Moscow has troops in its neighbour, adding that the conflict could be protracted. “Now if the Russians are serious about negotiations they need to remove their troops from Ukraine. They cannot negotiate with a gun to the head of the Ukrainians … So frankly, I don’t trust these so-called efforts of negotiation,” she told Sky News.


9.16am: Ireland will close off its airspace to all Russian aircraft as the invasion of Ukraine continues, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney confirmed on Sunday morning. Other European countries, including Finland, Lithuania and Latvia, have also said they are closing their airspace, while Germany said it was preparing to do so.


9.11am: Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the world on Sunday to scrap Russia’s voting power at the UN Security Council and said Russian actions verged on “genocide.” “This is terror. They are going to bomb our Ukrainian cities even more, they are going to kill our children even more subtly. This is the evil that has come to our land and must be destroyed,” he said in a short video message. “Russia’s criminal actions against Ukraine bear signs of genocide.”


8.50am: A series of blasts was heard to the west of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv’s centre on Sunday, minutes after air raid sirens sounded, a Reuters correspondent reported. Ukrainian media reported explosions and a gunfight in a nearby town.

According to Ukrainian news website Segodnya.ua, a bridge has been blown up near the town of Bucha west of Kyiv. It was unclear whether it had been bombed by Russian troops or destroyed by the Ukrainian side. Anton Herashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister, said fighting was under way in Bucha with Russian forces that were trying to advance towards Kyiv.


8.30am: Moscow’s decision to send a delegation to Belarus for talks is “propaganda”, an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Reuters on Sunday, saying Ukraine wants only “real” negotiations with Russia over its military offensive, without ultimatums.

Earlier the Kremlin said the delegation had arrived in Gomel in neighbouring Belarus and was waiting for the Ukrainians. Zelenskiy rejected talks in Belarus, saying it was complicit in the invasion, but he left the door open for negotiations elsewhere.


Russian forces have attacked oil and gas facilities in Ukraine, sparking huge explosions, officials said on Sunday, as Western allies prepared new sanctions, including banishing key Russia banks from the main global payments system.

Ukrainian forces were holding off Russian troops advancing on the capital Kyiv, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said as the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two entered its fourth day.

But Zelenskiy said the night had been brutal, with shelling of civilian infrastructure and attacks on everything, including ambulances.

Russian president Vladimir Putin launched what he called a special military operation on Thursday, ignoring weeks of Western warnings and saying the “neo-Nazis” ruling Ukraine threatened Russia’s security – a charge Kyiv and Western governments say is baseless propaganda.

Offering a glimmer of hope for negotiations, the Kremlin said a delegation had arrived in neighbouring Belarus for talks and was waiting for the Ukrainians. But Zelenskiy rejected talks in Belarus, saying it was complicit in the invasion, but he left the door open for negotiations elsewhere.

Russian missiles found their mark overnight, including a strike that set an oil terminal ablaze in Vasylkiv, southwest of Kyiv, the town’s mayor said. Blasts sent huge flames and billowing black smoke into the night sky, online posts showed.

“The enemy wants to destroy everything,” said the mayor, Natalia Balasinovich.

Mushroom cloud

There was heavy fighting for Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, in the northeast, where Russian troops blew up a natural gas pipeline, a Ukrainian state agency said.

That blast sent a mushroom cloud up into the darkness, though Ukraine’s gas pipeline operator said the transit of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine was going on as normal.

Russian troops later entered Kharkiv, interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said on Telegram. Videos posted by him and a state agency showed several military vehicles moving on a street and, separately, a burning tank.

Russian-backed separatists in the eastern province of Luhansk said a Ukrainian missile had blown up an oil terminal in the town of Rovenky.

Reuters witnesses in Kyiv reported occasional blasts and gunfire through the night, then three blasts after air raid sirens went off shortly before 9am (6am Irish time).

Ukrainian leaders were defiant.

“We have withstood and are successfully repelling enemy attacks. The fighting goes on,” Zelenskiy said in a video message from the streets of Kyiv posted on his social media.

A US defence official said Ukraine’s forces were putting up “very determined resistance” to Russia’s air, land and sea advance, which has sent hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing westwards, clogging major highways and railway lines.

Bad for business

The United States and its allies have imposed a range of sanctions on Russia in response to an assault that threatens to upend Europe’s post-Cold War order.

On Saturday, they moved to block certain Russian banks’ access to the Swift international payment system. They also said they would impose restrictions on Russia’s central bank to limit its ability to support the rouble and finance Putin’s war effort.

“We are resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies,” said a statement from the United States, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Britain and the European Commission.

After initially shying away from such a move largely because of concern about the impact on their economies, the allies said they committed to “ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the Swift messaging system.”

They did not name the banks that would be expelled, but an EU diplomat said some 70 per cent of the Russian banking market would be affected.

The decision – which the French finance minister had called a “financial nuclear weapon” because of the damage it would inflict on the Russian economy – deals a blow to Russia’s trade and makes it harder for its companies to do business.

Swift, a secure messaging network that facilitates rapid cross-border payments, said it was preparing to implement the measures.

Sanctions on Russia’s central bank could limit Putin’s use of his more than $630 billion (€559 billion) in international reserves, widely seen as insulating Russia from some economic harm.

Google barred Russia’s state-owned media outlet RT and other channels from receiving money for ads on their websites, apps and YouTube videos, similar to move Facebook made.

‘Advancing’

Earlier, the Kremlin said its troops were advancing again “in all directions” after Putin ordered a pause on Friday. Ukraine’s government said there had been no pause.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser said about 3,500 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded. Western officials have said intelligence showed Russia suffering higher casualties than expected.

Russia has not released casualty figures and it was impossible to verify tolls or the precise picture on the ground.

A United Nations relief agency said as of Saturday evening at least 64 civilians had been killed among 240 civilian casualties, more than 160,000 people had been internally displaced and more than 116,000 had fled to neighbouring countries.

Ukraine, a democratic nation of 44 million people, won independence from Moscow in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union and wants to join Nato and the EU, goals Russia opposes.

Putin has said he must eliminate what he calls a serious threat to his country from its smaller neighbour, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine – something Kyiv and its Western allies reject as a lie.

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