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US in ‘active discussion’ about Russian oil import ban | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack | #hacking | #aihp

The latest developments in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as they happen.

What you need to know

  • A second attempt to evacuate civilians from a besieged city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine was stopped. Both sides are blaming the other for breaking the ceasefire, which was meant to last for 11 hours. It held for less than three.
  • Ukrainian officials say Russian forces intensified their shelling of Mariupol. They say massive bombs were dropped in residential areas in Chernihiv, a city north of the capital Kyiv.
  • The UN human rights office confirms the deaths of 364 civilians in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24. The Geneva-based office says another 759 civilians had been injured as of midnight Saturday, local time. The office only reports casualties it confirms, and believes real figures are considerably higher.
  • The UN says more than 1.5 million people have now fled Ukraine.
  • Russian forces have seized two nuclear power plants and are advancing towards a third.

Live updates

2.34pm: The BBC says the UK is pledging £74 million (NZ$116 million) to Ukraine.

“The funding is to help pay for Ukrainian welfare, pensions and public-sector salaries,” the BBC reported.

Earlier on Monday British Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted a tweet saying “Putin must fail.”

1.55pm: Russian newspaper Kommersant reports all state-owned websites are switching over to the Russian domain name system by March 11.

The Russian ministry of digital development tells Kommersant it’s needed to protect against cyber attacks.

“We are preparing for various scenarios to ensure that Russian resources are available to citizens.

“The telegram for government agencies outlines a set of simple cyber hygiene recommendations that will help to organise work more effectively to protect our resources from malicious traffic, keep services running and control over domain names.”

The ministry says there are no plans to disconnect Russia from the rest of the world’s internet.

Russian media group RBC reported in 2021 that Russia did manage to disconnect itself from the world’s internet during testing in June and July.

1.45pm: And as the US and its European allies consider banning imports of Russian oil, early trading has seen Brent prices up to about US$129 a barrel.

That price is up 9 per cent and is at their highest since 2008.

1.38pm: From the Associated Press:

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States and its allies are having a “very active discussion” about banning the import of Russian oil and natural gas in the latest escalation of their sanctions in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.

Asked about oil and gas imports, Blinken tells CNN that President Joe Biden convened a meeting of his National Security Council on the subject the day before.

Biden and Western allies have, until now, held off on sanctions against Russia’s lucrative energy industry to avoid blowback on their own economies.

“We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on [the] world market,” Blinken says.

“That’s a very active discussion as we speak.”

1.33pm: The latest intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine, from the UK’s Ministry of Defence:

1.16pm: Sir Tony Radkin, the head of the UK’s armed forces, tells BBC equipment is failing in the kilometres-long Russian convoy outside Kyiv.

Sir Tony says there isn’t a complete picture of what is going on, but adds that Russia hasn’t operated to this scale since World War II. That’s adding to its logistical woes.

Morale is falling among Russian forces, he says.

1.10pm: As Russian forces increased their shelling of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky is appealing to the West to strengthen sanctions.

In a video statement on Sunday evening, local time, Zelensky heaps criticism on Western leaders for not responding to the Russian Defense Ministry’s announcement that it would strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex, while telling employees of these defence plants not to go to work.

“I didn’t hear even a single world leader react to this,” Zelensky says.

“The audacity of the aggressor is a clear signal to the West that the sanctions imposed on Russia are not sufficient.”

Zelensky calls for organising a “tribunal” to bring to justice those who order and carry out such crimes.

“Think about the sense of impunity of the occupiers that they can announce such planned atrocities,” he says.

The Russian Defense Ministry previously announced that its forces intend to strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex with what it labelled precision weapons.

“We urge all personnel of Ukrainian defence industry plants… to leave the territory of their enterprises,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement carried by the state news agency Tass.

12.50pm: A wrap of the morning’s developments from the BBC:

12.48pm: Russian forces stepped up their shelling of Ukrainian cities in the centre, north and south of the country late Sunday, local time, Zelensky’s presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich says.

“The latest wave of missile strikes came as darkness fell,” he says on Ukrainian television.

He says the areas that came under heavy shelling include the outskirts of Kyiv, Chernihiv in the north, Mykolaiv in the south, and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

Kharkiv officials say the shelling damaged the television tower and heavy artillery was hitting residential areas.

In Chernihiv, officials say all regions of the city came under missile attack.

Arestovich describes a “catastrophic” situation in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, where efforts to evacuate residents failed. He says the government was doing all it could to resume evacuations.

Evacuations also failed in Mariupol in the south and Volnovakha in the east because of the shelling.

12.11pm: Artwork crafted by members of New Zealand’s Ukrainian community was unveiled on the ground floor of the Beehive on Monday morning.

Speaker Trevor Mallard says the embroidered design, which depicts a map of New Zealand, shows the deep relationship between New Zealand and Ukraine.

“It’s a symbol of the way we are standing with Ukraine in the face of this unjustified and unprovoked invasion.”

The artwork was gifted to Parliament in 2016.

The Prime Minister, representatives from the Green and ACT parties, and representatives of the Ukrainian community were present. Te Pāti Māori had also sent a message of solidarity.

Jacinda Ardern says all political parties are “totally unified” in condemning Russia’s military advance in Ukraine.

She says a new proposed law being considered by Cabinet this afternoon will give New Zealand the ability to add additional sanctions on Russia and people connected to the Kremlin, and that she hopes the bill would pass through Parliament quickly.

“You are members of our community and this is your home, but I know your hearts are in Ukraine right now,” she tells community members.

A representative from the community, Wellingtonian Andriy Legenkyy, says he’s thankful for Kiwis’ support.

“As Ukraine is fighting for its freedom and democratic society that our people built over the last decades since achieving independence from the colonial power of Russia and the Soviet Union, New Zealand cannot remain on the sidelines.

“Please, do not just pray for Ukrainians and shine our colours on your landmarks. You must lead by example and take steps that take a huge difference,” Legenkyy adds.

He says New Zealand needs to place more severe sanctions on Russia and oligarchs quickly.

11.55am: The Wall Street Journal reports that Russia is recruiting Syrians skilled in urban combat to fight in Ukraine, according to four US officials.

11.25am: As sanctions begin to bite in Russia, oligarchs are seeking safe ports for their superyachts.

“We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets,” US President Joe Biden said during his State of the Union speech on Wednesday, addressing the oligarchs.

“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”

But actually seizing the behemoth boats could prove challenging. Russian billionaires have had decades to shield their money and assets in the West from governments that might try to tax or seize them.

Read the full story from Associated Press.

11.02am: Upper Hutt has lit up its fantail sign in blue and yellow to show solidarity with Ukraine, councillor Dylan Bentley says.

“It is a small token gesture but it [is] our show of support for them during this horrific invasion.”

10.44am: The Kyiv Independent reports Vadym Denysenko, advisor to interior minister of Ukraine, says Russia has “gathered sufficient troops near Kyiv and will try to seize the capital in the next few days”.

A near 65-kilometre Russian convoy was first spotted via satellite imagery last week. Both US and UK officials say logistical problems have slowed it down.

Meanwhile, Kyiv’s residents are preparing.

Sandbag barricades are constructed in Kyiv as the Russian attacks continue on Ukraine on March 6.

10.31am: Variety reports Netflix has suspended its service in Russia.

“Given the circumstances on the ground, we have decided to suspend our service in Russia,” a spokesperson for Netflix tells Variety.

The streaming service has about 1 million users in Russia.

Earlier this week, Netflix also said it would pause all future projects and acquisitions from Russia.

10.19am: As TikTok decides to suspend some of its services to Russian users, an information war is being waged.

A factory and a store burn after being bombarded in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine on March 6.

From the Associated Press:

Russian authorities on Monday continue to block independent news outlets and arrest protesters in an effort to tighten control over what information the domestic audience sees about the invasion of Ukraine.

Multiple independent online outlets were blocked on Monday, on top of dozens of others that were blocked last week.

Others decided to halt their operations in Russia because of new repressive laws or refused to cover the invasion at all because of the pressure. Hundreds of protesters have been detained across Russia.

BBC, CNN, Canadian Broadcasting Company and Bloomberg are among the global news outlets suspending reporting in Russia.

Putin on Saturday signed into law a bill that criminalises the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake” reports. Those convicted of the offence would face up to 15 years in prison.

Russian authorities have repeatedly and falsely decried reports of Russian military setbacks or civilian deaths in Ukraine as “fake” news, as well as reports calling the offensive a war or an invasion.

State media outlets and government officials refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation” and insist the Russian forces only target military facilities. That’s despite volumes of evidence of civilian sites being targeted.

Despite the efforts to tightly control the narrative, Russians all across the country have spoken out against the war.

Tens of thousands have signed open letters and online petitions demanding to stop it, and street protests in dozens of Russian cities have been happening almost daily since the attack began on February 24 – always followed by mass detentions.

Police drag a woman away during an action against Russia's attack on Ukraine in St Petersburg.
Police detain a demonstrator during an action against Russia's attack on Ukraine in St Petersburg.

9.51am: From the Associated Press:

The French presidency says the call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday focused primarily on the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear plants.

The call was on request from Macron and lasted almost two hours, the Elysee says.

A French official says Macron insisted on the need to ensure the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safety standards are respected at Chernobyl and in other nuclear plants. He told Putin these facilities must not be targeted by a Russian offensive or caught in the fighting.

Putin says he does not intend to attack nuclear plants and agreed on the principle of a “dialogue” between IAEA, Ukraine and Russia on this issue, according to the official, who spoke anonymously in line with the French presidency’s practices.

Potential talks are to be organised in the coming days, he says.

Macron reiterated his call for Russia to stop its military operations and insisted on the need to protect the civilians and allow access to humanitarian aid.

“The [humanitarian] situation is difficult” including in Mariupol on Sunday, the official stresses.

“Our demands remain the same: We want Russia to respond to these demands… very quickly and clearly.”

9.37am: From Buzzfeed journalist Isobel Koshiw: Irpin’s Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn says at least eight people died in the city while trying to escape on Sunday, including two children.

9.28am: New York Times journalist Valerie Hopkins says, across Ukraine, she’s meeting people with close relatives in Russia who don’t believe what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

“Relatives parrot the official Kremlin position: that Putin’s army is conducting a limited ‘special military operation’ to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine,” she reports.

9.00am: TikTok users in Russia won’t be able to post new videos or livestream on the social media platform, the company announces.

“In light of Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law,” TikTok says.

Putin strengthened his censorship regime on Saturday. A new law criminalises the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake news” about the war.

The Russian government also blocked Facebook and Twitter in Russia.

8.43am: While more than 1.5 million refugees have fled the ongoing war, Ukrainians in New Zealand can only hope from afar their families can make it out safely.

Among them are Christchurch student Inga Tokarenko and Auckland lawyer Anastasiya Gutorova.

“It’s been hard to do anything. It’s been hard to even eat… to sleep,” Tokarenko says.

“As I’m keeping up with is war. I’m beginning to have war dreams, bombings my family is going through. It’s almost like I’m going through the same emotions as they are even though we’re so far apart.”

She says she wants the Government to increase New Zealand’s refugee quota and welcome those who are fleeing Ukraine. She’s started a petition to Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, which has collected almost 2400 signatures.

Gutorova says she speaks to her family in Ukraine nearly every hour to make sure they’re still safe.

“I spent a few days waiting for New Zealand to take meaningful steps to both stop the war and help Ukrainian people. Unfortunately, so far, I haven’t seen enough. I haven’t seen anything, really.

“People on the ground are short of supplies, there are no medical supplies, there’s no food, there’s no shelter and it’s the middle of winter.”

She says it’s New Zealand’s responsibility to help those escaping the fighting in Ukraine.

8.20am: From the Associated Press:

The International Atomic Energy Agency says Russian forces are tightening their grip on the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, Ukraine’s largest, that they seized last week.

The director-general of the agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, says Ukrainian staff members are now required to seek approval for any operation, even maintenance, from the Russians, and that they have impeded normal communications by switching off some mobile networks and internet at the site.

Ukraine’s regulatory authority says that phone lines, as well as e-mails and fax, are no longer working.

Grossi says he is “extremely concerned about these developments”, adding that for the plant to operate safely, “staff must be allowed to carry out their vital duties in stable conditions, without undue external interference or pressure”.

8.09am: What has New Zealand done so far to address the crisis in Ukraine?

  • The Government is providing NZ$2 million as an initial contribution to help deliver humanitarian support to Ukraine.
  • New Zealand also provides annual funds to a UN emergency response fund, which has announced it will put $20 million towards helping humanitarian agencies scale up their Ukraine response.
  • Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi says 170 applications for visas from Ukrainian people will be fast-tracked. He says half of the applications are from people in New Zealand with temporary visas, and the other half are overseas.
  • Other actions include targeted travel bans, the prohibition of the export of goods to Russian military and security forces, and the suspension of bilateral foreign ministry consultations until further notice.
  • Beyond that, the National Party is calling for a humanitarian visa for refugees from Ukraine who have family in New Zealand.
  • The Greens are taking that a step further and want New Zealand to take 2000 refugees. They say this should be open to anyone fleeing Ukraine.

On why New Zealand hasn’t extended the refugee quota, Ardern says Ukrainians will probably want to stay near their country to go back and find loved ones later.

She says New Zealand works with the UN refugee agency, so it would be up to its direction, essentially.

8.00am: In wake of criticism that other western countries are imposing much heavier economic sanctions than New Zealand is on Russia, Ardern says those sanctions are specific to how those countries engaged with Russia around its trade of energy and in financial institutions.

She says those are not all relevant to New Zealand.

Military help is also not necessarily a place New Zealand can add value, Ardern says.

“However, what we want to make sure is that as countries put in limits that we are not suddenly the recipient of the in-flow of investment because we have those who are looking to avoid sanctions in other countries,” she adds.

“So, taking a pre-emptive move there is really important. We also want to make sure we’re taking measures around what we do with flights, airspace, maritime paths. Just thinking generally about how we can also target oligarchs, making sure it’s a really comprehensive response.”

7.45am: Has New Zealand done all it can to halt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tells Breakfast yes, for now, but more can be done.

She says Cabinet is considering a proposed law that has been specifically drafted for this conflict this afternoon.

“We’ll be looking at the ability for New Zealand to add additional sanctions and also making sure that we can target those who may have influence on the Russian regime.”

The National Party had been calling for the introduction of MP Gerry Brownlee’s members’ bill that will give New Zealand a framework to implement autonomous sanctions. The proposed law failed its first reading last year.

7.40am: BNO News reports American Express is suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus.

It follows a similar move by Visa and MasterCard.

7.06am: From the Associated Press:

The Russian military has warned Ukraine’s neighbouring countries from hosting warplanes, saying Moscow may consider them a part of the conflict if Ukrainian aircraft fly combat missions from their territory.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov charges Sunday that some Ukrainian combat planes had redeployed to Romania and other Ukraine neighbours he didn’t identify.

Konashenkov warns that if those warplanes attack the Russian forces from the territory of those nations, it “could be considered as those countries’ engagement in the military conflict”.

Meanwhile, European Union leader Charles Michel says closing Ukraine’s airspace could spark a world war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called on NATO countries to stop the Russian onslaught on his country by imposing a no-fly zone.

Western leaders have refused for fear of triggering a wider war in Europe. Deploying fighter jets over Ukraine could “in current circumstances” be considered as “NATO’s entry into the war and therefore risk World War III”, Michel says in an interview with the public broadcaster France Inter.

6.59am: Russian President Vladimir Putin has already lost the war in Ukraine, according to renowned historian Yuval Noah Harari.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor tells Breakfast that’s because the whole rationale for the invasion of Ukraine is based on a fantasy.

“He doesn’t believe that Ukraine is a real nation. He’s built this fantasy in his mind that Ukrainians are just Russians and they want to be absorbed by Russia.”

Harari says Putin believes the only thing preventing Ukraine from coming back to Russia is a small group of people at the top that he refers to as Nazis – “even though [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky] is Jewish”.

“Because of this fantasy, he invaded Ukraine expecting that the Zelensky will flee the country, that the Ukrainian army will surrender, and the Ukrainian people would throw flowers on the Russian tanks. He was just completely wrong about everything.”

That means even if Putin takes Ukraine, he will struggle to hold it, he says.

“In this sense, he has already lost.”

Harari says after World War II, most governments stopped seeing war as an acceptable tool to advance their interests.

Wars have been waged, they weren’t the kind that wiped countries off maps, he adds.

He warns that if Putin succeeds, it marks the return of war as a means of conquest.

6.42am: The BBC reports that at least three people were reportedly killed while trying to flee the town of Irpin after Russian mortar shells targeted a damaged bridge they were crossing to escape.

6.30am: Good morning and welcome to live coverage of the 12th day of fighting in Ukraine from 1News.

From the Associated Press:

A second attempt to evacuate civilians from a besieged city in southern Ukraine collapsed on Monday as Russian attacks stopped plans to create a humanitarian corridor, a Ukrainian government official says.

Food, water, medicine and almost all other supplies are in desperately short supply in the port city of Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces had agreed to an 11-hour cease-fire to allow civilians and the wounded to be evacuated.

But Russian attacks quickly closed the corridor, Ukrainian officials say.

The news dashes hopes that more people can escape the fighting in Ukraine, where Russia’s plan to quickly overrun the country has been stymied by fierce resistance.

Russia has made significant advances in southern Ukraine and along the coast, but many of its efforts have stalled, including an immense military convoy that has been almost motionless for days north of Kyiv.

As he has often done, Russian President Vladimir Putin turned the blame for the fighting back on Ukraine, telling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the invasion can halt only “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities”, according to a Kremlin statement on the phone call.

He says Ukraine had to fulfil “the well-known demands of Russia”, which include what he calls the “demilitarisation” and “de-Nazification” of Ukraine.

The first attempt at evacuations also wasn’t successful because of Russian attacks along another route.

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