Russia invades Ukraine live updates: 1st round of cease-fire talks end without a breakthrough

Published February 28, 2022 at 8:14 AM EST
A man hugs a crying woman on a crowded train platform.
Dimitar Dilkoff
AFP via Getty Images
A man hugs his wife before she boards an evacuation train at Kyiv central train station on Monday.

Cease-fire negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have been completed with no breakthroughs to end the fighting in Ukraine but with both sides agreeing to continue further talks. Meanwhile, the ruble fell against the dollar and the euro early Monday, squeezed by Western sanctions, and Ukraine’s president is officially applying for Ukraine to become an EU member.

Refugees flee to Ukraine's borders: Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have made their way to Poland in recent days after the country declared its borders open to those fleeing the Russian incursion.

Ukraine applies for EU membership: The EU has said that it wants Ukraine to be part of the bloc, but its entry would not be immediate.

Economic backlash: Russia's ruble collapses as sanctions hit, potentially sparking the country’s worst financial crisis since the Soviet era.Follow updates on the invasion below.

Follow updates on the invasion below.


Shell follows BP, cuts ties with Russian energy giant

Posted February 28, 2022 at 2:59 PM EST

The British energy giant Shell is ending its joint ventures with the Russian-controlled natural gas company Gazprom, in response to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The news follows shortly after BP announcedit would withdraw from its massive investment in Russian oil giant Rosneft. Equinor, a Norwegian energy company, is also exiting its joint ventures in Russia.

In a statement, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden called Russia's invasion of Ukraine "a senseless act of military aggression which threatens European security." He said Shell needs to discuss with multiple governments how to actually unwind its involvement with Gazprom's natural gas operations without disrupting supplies of fuel to Europe or violating sanctions.

Shell is also withdrawing from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which faces an uncertain future after Germany put the project on hold.

About $3 billion in assets are tied up in Shell's Gazprom projects, the company estimates. Leaving these deals will cost Shell money, although the full amount is not yet clear. (It's worth noting that both BP and Shell made enormous profits in 2021, thanks to rising energy prices.)

The companies were under significant pressure from the British government over their ties to Russia. U.K. energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng spoke to the CEOs of both BP and Shell and said there is a "strong moral imperative on British companies" to distance themselves from Russia.

Other companies, such as ExxonMobil and France's TotalEnergies, are also coming under scrutiny for their partnerships with Russia.

World Cup

FIFA suspends all Russian teams from international competition

Posted February 28, 2022 at 2:42 PM EST
Children stand next to the official countdown clock showing remaining time until the kick-off of the World Cup 2022, in Doha, Qatar.
Darko Bandic
Children in Doha, Qatar, stand next to the official countdown clock showing the remaining time until the 2022 World Cup kicks off.

FIFA has suspended all Russian soccer teams from competition until further notice, the organization announced on Monday.

The suspension is jointly supported by UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, and means Russia will be banned from competing in the 2022 World Cup.

"Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine," according to a statement from the two governing bodies. "Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people."

The move comes after FIFA stopped short on Sunday of suspending Russia from international competition, which drew criticism.

Initially, FIFA — in line with recommendations from the International Olympic Committee — banned Russia's flag and anthem from matches and said players would compete under the name "Football Union of Russia," but not "Russia."

Cezary Kuklesza, who leads the Polish football association, called FIFA's Sunday decision "unacceptable" in a tweet. Kuklesza said the Polish national team would not play against Russia — regardless of its team name.

Football associations in England and Sweden, among other countries, also said they would refuse to play Russia, including in World Cup qualifying matches.

Picture Show
On the ground

Photos: Ukrainian refugees fleeing war seek food and shelter in Poland

Posted February 28, 2022 at 2:06 PM EST
People arrive in Poland who have just crossed the border by bus from Ukraine at the Korczowa-Krakovets crossing on Sunday.
Claire Harbage
People arrive in Poland who have just crossed the border by bus from Ukraine at the Korczowa-Krakovets crossing on Sunday.

At least 200,000 Ukrainians and residents of Ukraine have arrived in Poland since the Russian invasion began last week. Poland has set up several refugee shelters along the border.

At the shelter near the town of Korczowa, volunteers serve hot food and tea and bring free clothes, diapers and toiletries. Some refugees go to hotels. Others stay inside the shelter, sleeping on fold-out chairs while holding their children.

Kseniia Onyshchenko contributed to this report.

People arrive in Poland who have just crossed the border by bus from Ukraine at the Korczowa-Krakovets crossing.
Claire Harbage
A bus brings these new refugees to a warehouse that’s been turned into a shelter.
Refugees hold up signs with the names of cities they are trying to reach.
Claire Harbage
People hold up signs with the names of cities they are trying to reach.
Polish civil servants, military and volunteers help organize the numerous busloads of people coming across the border from Ukraine and dropping off people who are fleeing the war in the country.
Claire Harbage
Polish civil servants, members of the military and volunteers help organize the numerous busloads of people coming across the border from Ukraine.
People arrive in Poland who have just crossed the border by bus from Ukraine at the Korczowa-Krakovets crossing.
Claire Harbage
People arrive in Poland after crossing the border by bus from Ukraine at the Korczowa-Krakovets crossing.


Zelenskyy has officially applied for Ukraine to join the European Union

Posted February 28, 2022 at 1:22 PM EST

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has officially signed an application for Ukraine's membership in the European Union, according to a post from his verified Facebook page.

The move comes hours after Zelenskyy released a video appealing to the EU for membership and calling on Russian forces to go home. He urged the EU to allow Ukraine's immediate entry under what he described as a "new special procedure," on which he did not elaborate.

"Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal," he said, according to a translation from The Guardian. "I am confident that it is fair. I am confident we have deserved it. I am confident that all this is possible."

Ukraine is not currently recognized as an official candidate for EU membership, though it has been part of an association agreement with the EU (in which both parties agreed to align their economies in certain areas and deepen political ties) since 2017, as Politico notes.

Zelenskyy's plea echoes remarks he made over the weekend, when he pushed publicly for Ukraine's accession into the EU and discussed the subject with European leaders.

Zelenskyy tweeted on Saturday that he had spoken with European Council President Charles Michel, writing: "It is a crucial moment to close the long-standing discussion once and for all and decide on Ukraine's membership in the #EU."

Michel responded in a tweet of his own: "#Ukraine and its people are family. Further concrete support is on its way."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Euronews on Sunday that Ukraine is "one of us and we want them in" the European Union.

But she suggested its entry wouldn't be immediate, saying the process would involve integrating Ukraine's market into that of the EU but noted that the two cooperate closely in areas such as energy.

Indeed, the EU's own website stresses that "becoming a member of the EU is a complex procedure which does not happen overnight."

A country can only apply once it satisfies certain conditions, including having free-market economy and stable democracy and accepting all EU legislation as well as the euro. Then, it submits its application to the Council, which asks the Commission to assess the country's ability to meet those criteria.

If the Commission's assessment is favorable, the Council must unanimously agree on a formal framework for negotiations, which then take place between ministers and ambassadors of EU governments and the candidate country.

"Due to the huge volume of EU rules and regulations each candidate country must adopt as national law, the negotiations take time to complete," the EU explains.

Five countries are currently in the process of integrating EU legislation into national law: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. Two others — Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina — are classified as "potential candidates" because they do not yet meet the criteria to apply for membership.

Switzerland freezes Putin’s assets, breaking with past practice to join sanctions

Posted February 28, 2022 at 1:01 PM EST

Switzerland is joining the European Union in sanctioning Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, saying the invasion of Ukraine has forced it to break with its longstanding policy of absolute neutrality.

“Russia’s ongoing military attack on a sovereign European country is an extremely serious violation of international law,” government spokesman Andre Simonazzi said. “The Federal Council is therefore changing Switzerland’s stance on sanctions.”

The EU hit Putin and more than 650 other people with sanctions on Friday, freezing the Russian president’s assets under its jurisdiction along with those belonging to foreign affairs minister Sergey Lavrov. It also targeted politicians who supported Russia’s recognition of two Ukrainian territories as breakaway “republics.”

Switzerland is now joining those sanctions, saying it is freezing assets “with immediate effect.”

“Switzerland reaffirms its solidarity with Ukraine and its people,” the government said, adding that it is sending relief supplies to help Ukrainians who have fled to Poland.

Swiss banks have long been famous for their discretion and security, making the country a haven for stashing wealth. But while today’s decision could alter that perception, it’s unclear how it might impact Putin personally.

Putin relies on Russian oligarchs to store parts of his fortune, according to Bill Browder, a longtime critic of the Russian leader. Browder is the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management; he also leads the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign. Over the weekend, Browder told NPR how difficult it can be to hold Russia’s super-rich to account, much less to trace their money.

“They hold it in London and New York and Switzerland and France. They buy properties," Browder said. "And so when we're talking about going after Vladimir Putin, it's absolutely great and symbolic and very essential to put him at the top of the sanctions list. But unless you put the people holding his money on the sanctions list as well, it's just a symbolic move, not a practical move.”


The 1st round of cease-fire talks between Ukraine and Russia end with no breakthrough

Posted February 28, 2022 at 12:40 PM EST
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak speaks to media after talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus' Gomel region on Monday.
Sergei Kholodilin
AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak speaks to media after talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus' Gomel region on Monday.

Cease-fire negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have been completed with no breakthroughs to end the fighting in Ukraine but with both sides agreeing to continue further talks.

The talks lasted just under five hours and took place in Belarus near the Ukrainian border.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his country’s lead negotiator, said “the first round” had allowed both sides to identify “priority issues” but would require further consultations with their governments in Kyiv and Moscow before implementation.

Leonid Slutsky, a Russian lawmaker and member of the Russian delegation, said that the talks had made “some progress” on “important issues” but that the main outcome had been “each side listening to one another.”

The Kremlin’s lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said the next round would take place at the Belarusian-Polish border “in the coming days.”


Putin and Macron speak by phone but give starkly different accounts of the discussion

Posted February 28, 2022 at 12:14 PM EST

French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone Monday and agreed to remain in contact in the coming days, but the Élysée Palace and Kremlin provided starkly different accounts of the discussions.

The Élysée Palace issued a statement saying Putin “confirmed his willingness to” 1) stop all attacks against civilians and civilian residences; 2) preserve civilian infrastructure; 3) secure (i.e. not attack) roads, in particular to the south of Kyiv.

The Kremlin statement made no such mention of these things. Instead, it said Putin told Macron that the situation would be resolved only by 1) unconditional recognition of Russian security interests including its sovereignty over Crimea; 2) the demilitarization and denazification of the Ukrainian government; 3) Ukrainian neutrality.

The Kremlin said Putin also told Macron that Russian military forces do not threaten the peaceful residents of Ukraine and are not attacking civilian targets. “The threat comes from Ukrainian nationalists, who are placing weapons in residential buildings in order to use the civilian population as human shields,” it said.

Social media

Twitter will label and limit the reach of links to Russian state media

Posted February 28, 2022 at 12:00 PM EST

Twitter will label tweets with links to Russian state-affiliated media including RT and Sputnik and reduce their visibility on its platform, as social media companies come under pressure to restrict Russia from using their platforms to spread propaganda and disinformation about the war in Ukraine.

In the last few days, Facebook and Google have barred Russian state media from making money from advertising on their platforms. They’ve also blocked them entirely in Ukraine, at the request of the Ukrainian government. Now other governments have asked for the channels to be blocked in their countries, Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs at Facebook parent Meta, tweeted on Sunday.

The crackdown on state media has angered the Russian government, which has accused the companies of censorship and said it would limit access to Facebook in the country. Over the weekend, Twitter said its service was also being throttled in Russia.

Twitter users have been sharing more than 45,000 tweets a day with links to RT, Sputnik and other Kremlin-affiliated outlets since Russia invaded Ukraine last week, the company said. That means “the overwhelming majority of content from state-affiliated media is coming from individuals sharing this content, rather than accounts we’ve been labeling for years as state-affiliated media,” Twitter said in a statement.

Twitter banned advertising from state-backed media from any country in 2019, and it labels accounts of state media outlets to note their affiliation with governments. On Friday, it paused all advertising on its platform in Russia and Ukraine "to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don't detract from it."

The company says it will also reduce the reach of these labeled tweets, meaning they won’t appear in top search results and won’t be recommended by its algorithms. It also plans to expand labeling to links from other countries’ state media outlets in the coming weeks.

Editor’s note: Meta pays NPR to license NPR content.

The Olympics strips Putin of an honor and says Russian and Belarusian athletes should not compete

Posted February 28, 2022 at 11:36 AM EST
Russian President Vladimir Putin is being stripped of his Olympic Order honor, as the International Olympic Committee takes new actions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Putin is seen here at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Wang Zhao
AFP via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, is being stripped of his Olympic Order honor by the International Olympic Committee.

The International Olympic Committee is stepping up its actions against Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine, telling sports organizers that they should “not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.”

It’s not immediately clear whether the new policy could prevent some Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Beijing Winter Paralympics, which are set to begin on Friday.

Acknowledging the short notice, the IOC urged organizers to prevent athletes from competing under the name of Russia or Belarus, adding that they should be treated as “neutral athletes or neutral teams,” with no reference to national flags, colors or anthems.

The IOC’s executive board also stripped Russian President Vladimir Putin of the gold Olympic Order it had awarded him in 2001, citing “the exceptional circumstances of the situation and considering the extremely grave violation of the Olympic Truce and other violations of the Olympic Charter by the Russian government in the past.”

The moves come days after the IOC said any sporting events planned in Russia or Belarus should be canceled or relocated. Expressing its “full solidarity" with Ukraine, the IOC board said both Russia and Belarus had violated the “Olympic Truce” that is meant to ensure international peace during the Olympics and Paralympics.

In Ukraine

Under Ukraine's cities, civilians spend days in metro stations turned bomb shelters

Posted February 28, 2022 at 10:33 AM EST
People in an underground station sit with luggage on the side of a train platform while a train pulls into the station on the track across from them.
Pierre Crom
Getty Images
People take shelter from bombings in a underground station in Kyiv on Friday.

Inside Ukraine, civilians are facing long waits for food and days in makeshift bomb shelters as fighting continues. There are diplomatic efforts toward a cease-fire happening on the border of Putin-allied Belarus — but it's unclear how serious the efforts are.

Morale is running high among Ukrainians despite bleak conditions, reports NPR's Tim Mak, who is on the ground in western Ukraine.

More than four days after the start of the large-scale invasion, the capital, Kyiv, remains under Ukrainian control. The U.N. reportsthatmore than 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine. Those who remain are experiencing shortages of and long waits for food.

Sofia Kryvushko, a college senior in Ukraine, left the northeastern city of Kharkiv. The city is less than 30 miles from the Russian border and it faced heavy artillery fire overnight, Mak reports.

“In Kharkiv, there is no food now. They can stand in large queues for a potato or something like that," says Kryvushko.

Some residents of cities under attack are staying in bomb shelters. Kristina Berdynskykh spent more than three days in a metro station turned bomb shelter in Kyiv with her 67-year-old mom.

There are efforts toward a diplomatic solution to the war, but hopes for its success are not high, reports Mak. A Ukrainian delegation has arrived on the border of Belarus for negotiations with Russia.

Threatening the diplomatic option before it is even off the ground: Belarus is not neutral, and there are reports that Belarus could be considering joining the war on Russia's side.

Still, the Ukrainian delegation is asking for two main items: An immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

Russia is asking for Ukraine to declare neutrality and give up its efforts to join NATO. The sides are very far apart, Mak says.

Find more ofMak's reporting on and follow him on Twitter here for the latest.


As Ukraine and Russia meet in Belarus, the U.S. halts operations at its embassy in Minsk

Posted February 28, 2022 at 10:22 AM EST
The U.S. embassy in Minsk, surrounded by a yellow fence, tall trees and an American flag against a white sky.
Viktor Drachev
AFP via Getty Images
Operations at the U.S. embassy in Minsk, Belarus, have been suspended, the State Department says.

The U.S. State Department announced on Monday that it is suspending operations in its embassy in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

It has also authorized the voluntary departure of nonemergency employees and family members at its embassy in Moscow.

"We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

He added that the department is continuously making adjustments and embassies and consulates based on its mission, health conditions and the local security environment.

U.S. officials first ordered family members of embassy staff in Kyiv to leave Ukraine in late January, as fears of a Russian invasion mounted. The State Department ordered most embassy staff to depart earlier this month, around the same time it suspended consular services at its embassy in Kyiv and urged Americans not to travel to Ukraine.

"We ultimately have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens, and that includes our U.S. government personnel and their dependents serving around the world," Blinken said on Monday.

The move comes as more global attention is shifting to Belarus, a Russian ally and increasingly key player in diplomatic efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict.

The Biden administration sanctioned 24 Belarusian individuals and entities last week, citing the country's "support for, and facilitation of" Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And delegations from Ukraine and Russia are meeting today in Belarus to negotiate a potential cease-fire.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko faced European Union accusations last fall of luring thousands of migrants from the Middle East and other regions with the intent of forcing them across the border to Poland. Thousands were trapped for days in miserable conditions at the border.

The EU has hit the Lukashenko regime with sanctions for what it called a fraudulent 2020 election as well as for ordering violent crackdowns on his opponents. The U.S. hit Belarus with sanctions for the same reasons on the first anniversary of the election, in August 2021. President Bidensaid in a statement that the actions of the Lukashenko regime "are an illegitimate effort to hold on to power at any price."

World response

‘We will take care of you,’ Slovakia tells Ukrainians fleeing invasion

Posted February 28, 2022 at 10:12 AM EST

Slovakia is welcoming Ukrainians who are fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country, offering help and social services with little or no need for documentation. The country says adults can work and kids can go to school soon after arriving in Slovakia.

We will take care of you,” the government said on a website created specifically for Ukrainians who are taking refuge from the violence.

Ukrainians fleeing the war are eligible for a special “temporary refuge” protection, allowing them to get a job even if they don’t have a work permit or other documents that are normally required. Asylum-seekers are usually required to wait nine months after applying for international protection before they can work legally.

The government says Ukrainians who apply for asylum or temporary refuge “will be provided with accommodation, food and urgent medical care” while their application is being considered. If their status is confirmed, they’ll get help in finding a place to live.

Slovakia’s policies are being applauded, as are similar moves to welcome Ukrainians into neighboring countries. But they also highlight what critics say are vastly different standards for migrants and refugees depending on where they’re coming from.

Reflecting the turnaround in Hungary's migrant policy, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán went from saying, “We aren’t going to let anyone in” last December, to “We’re letting everyone in" during the Ukraine-Russia war, as The Associated Press reports.

In Ukraine

Russian forces reportedly destroyed the world's biggest plane in Ukraine

Posted February 28, 2022 at 9:31 AM EST
The Soviet-built Antonov Airlines Antonov An-225 Mriya strategic airlift cargo aircraft, pictured after landing at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport in August 2020. It has reportedly been destroyed in Ukraine by Russian forces.
Jack Guez
AFP via Getty Images
The Soviet-era Antonov Airlines Antonov An-225 Mriya strategic airlift cargo aircraft has reportedly been destroyed in Ukraine by Russian forces.

Ukrainian officials are pledging to rebuild the world's largest cargo aircraft, which they said was destroyed in a Russian attack on an airfield near Kyiv over the weekend.

The Antonov AN-225 is nicknamed "Mriya," the Ukrainian word for "dream." It holds the title of the longest and heaviest airplane ever built, with a cargo compartment big enough to fit 50 cars.

For reference: An Airbus 320 has a wingspan of around 117 feet, while Mriya's measures just over 290 feet. It weighs about 385,800 pounds without any cargo or fuel.

The plane was one of only two built — and the only one completed — by the Kyiv-based aeronautics company Antonov, during the Soviet era, and made its first flight in 1988.

It's been in service ever since. CNN reports it has been drafted to help airlift aid to other crisis-hit countries, including delivering relief supplies to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and medical supplies to affected areas in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The exact status of the aircraft is currently unclear.

A Russian defense ministry spokesman said Friday that Russian forces had staged a "successful landing operation" to capture Hostomel airfield, near a suburb of Kyiv, according to CNN, which said it could not immediately corroborate those claims but that its reporters on the ground had seen Russian airborne troops taking positions at the airfield the previous day.

Satellite images of the Hostomel airfield, captured on Sunday by the U.S.-based Maxar Technologies, show smoke and damage to the hangar after what the company described as airstrikes and "heavy fighting in and near the airport."

Ukrainian state defense company Ukroboronprom said the plane had been undergoing routine repairs at an airfield near Kyiv on Thursday — the day that Russian forces first attacked — and was unable to take off "although the appropriate commands were given."

"Currently it is impossible to assess the plane’s condition and the possibility and cost of its restoring due the lack of access to the aircraft as the control over the airport is taken by the Russian occupiers," it said Sunday.

Antonov said in a tweet that same day that it cannot report on the plane's technical condition until it has been inspected by experts.

Ukrainian officials are already talking about restoring the Mriya, at Russia's expense.

Ukroboronprom estimated on Sunday that the restoration will take more than five years and cost upward of $3 billion.

"Ukraine will make every effort to ensure that the aggressor state pays for these works," it said, alleging that Russia "hit the Mriya as a symbol of Ukraine's aviation capabilities" and had damaged the country's aviation and air cargo sector.

It is also optimistic about Ukraine's victory and resilience. Officials have pledged not only to rebuild the plane that was reportedly lost, but also to complete the unfinished aircraft as well.

Ukroboronprom's general director, Yuriy Husyev, said in a statement that after the victory, it would finish "our new 'Mriya,' which has been waiting for this in a safe place for many years."

"Russia may have destroyed our 'Mriya,'" Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said in a tweet. "But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We shall prevail!"

International Dispatch
Reaction in Israel

The Putin Pub in Jerusalem is looking for a new name after Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Posted February 28, 2022 at 9:02 AM EST
This composite image shows the Putin pub before and after having "Putin" removed from its name. Now it just says Pub above the door with an empty space where "Putin" was.
Courtesy of Leon Teterin/Daniel Estrin
The Putin Pub in Jerusalem, before the owners removed the word Putin from the sign, and the pub on Feb. 24, the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after the Russian-speaking owners of the Putin Pub removed “Putin” from the sign.

JERUSALEM — A bemused German tourist named Patrick stood outside the Jerusalem pub he had visited the other day.

“There was Putin’s Pub,” he said. “And today, just Pub.”

On the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian-speaking co-owners of the Putin Pub yanked the Russian president’s name from the sign outside.

“We think we did the right thing,” said co-owner Leon Teterin, 36. “We are getting away from politics. This is supposed to be a happy place. Not to make people feel they’re somewhere aggressive, or some dictator."

Israel is home to one of the world’s biggest Russian-speaking diasporas. More than 1 million Jews, or those claiming Jewish relatives, from Russia, Ukraine and former Soviet states fled the collapsing Soviet Union to Israel in waves of immigration that surged in the early 1990s.

A decade later, in 2000, the Putin Pub was founded by and for Russian-speaking immigrants, Teterin said.

The name was a gimmick, he said: Putin was running for president for the first time, so it was an easily recognizable name that would attract Russian speakers. Now he can no longer tolerate it.

“All Russian-speaking Israelis have friends, or relatives of friends, who live in Ukraine,” he said. “It’s horrible. War is not a good thing.”

Many immigrants to Israel have family now seeking shelter in Ukraine

A customer kisses Teterin on the cheek on her way out. Her mother is in a shelter in Ukraine.

Teterin scrolls through a torrent of text messages from friends in Ukraine. He opens one from a pub regular who flew to Kyiv to visit her parents and now finds herself in a shelter.

“At least we have themamad,” Teterin said, using the Hebrew acronym for the reinforced room every new Israeli apartment must contain to protect from rocket attacks. “They don’t. They’re sleeping in the metro, in shelters.”

Bartender Sima Kogan, 25, fled to Jerusalem from Donetsk when Russia instigated war in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Her dad was killed and her mom fled to Kyiv, where she is now sheltering in a metro station.

Kogan lit up when the bar owner told her the pub would no longer be named after the man responsible for upending her life.

“How I was happy!” she laughed.

Some Israelis are sympathetic to Russia’s position

While native Israelis and those of Russian and Ukrainian descent have staged anti-war rallies in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, some Israeli public figures hope to protect one of Putin’s loyalists.

In a letter to the U.S. ambassador to Israel, they asked the U.S. not to sanction oligarch turned Russian-Israeli billionaire philanthropist Roman Abramovich, who has extensive business interests in the West and is a major donor in Israel, including millions of dollars to Israel’s leading Sheba Medical Center. The hospital director was one of the signatories of the letter, a Sheba spokesman told NPR.

Dani Dayan, chairman of Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, who deplored Russia’s invasion on Twitter, was another signatory, according to an Israeli media report he would not confirm.

“I do not leak my correspondences. Especially not those signed by additional people,” Dayan told NPR.

Pub-goers sit in booths and drink beer. The décor at the pub includes stripped wallpaper and dark lighting.
Daniel Estrin
The pub formerly named after the Russian president was founded in 2000 by Russian-speaking immigrants in Jerusalem.

Israelis have mixed reaction to Putin’s "Nazi" claims

At the pub formerly known as Putin, Shlomi Azran, 40, an Israeli who dabbles in real estate, is ambivalent about the Russian invasion. “I’m not for or against,” he said.

He enjoyed a vacation in Ukraine once but said there is a darker side to Ukraine, and pulled up a photo on his Facebook feed allegedly depicting a man in Ukraine holding up a red Nazi swastika banner.

“We have history with this nation. There is still Nazism. They don’t repudiate those people,” Azran said.

Putin accuses Ukraine’s leaders of “genocide” and says Russia’s goal in Ukraine is “denazification.” In a statement, genocide and World War II scholars said Ukraine, like other countries, has its share of right-wing extremists but rejected Russia’s “equation of Ukraine with the Nazi regime.”

Azran believes Russia is using “denazification” as a pretext for invading but said he will not be upset if Russia topples Ukraine’s government as long as there is minimal civilian harm.

“I do not have pity, as if they just entered a country without a reason,” Azran said.

Israelis are suggesting new names for Putin Pub

Some things haven’t changed at the pub formerly known as Putin. The cocktail menu still serves a Medvedev, the name of a former Russian president, and a Chernobyl. The tip jar asks customers to “Put-In” some change.

But the pub is looking for a new name. A popular Israeli Facebook group is soliciting suggestions. Some offer a variation on the theme: Input. Put Out.

Teterin, the co-owner, chuckles, but he rejects those ideas.

He opens the cardboard box where he stores the large wooden P, U, T, I and N from the sign outside and says he doesn’t want to ever touch those letters again.

Sami Sockol contributed to this report from Jerusalem.

World reaction

Airbnb is working to provide free, short-term housing for up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees

Posted February 28, 2022 at 8:59 AM EST
People wearing jackets and hats stand outside in a parking lot, next to their suitcases and belongings.
Wojtek Radwanski
AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainians are seen arriving at the Medyka pedestrian border crossing in eastern Poland on Sunday. Airbnb wants to help people fleeing the Russian invasion.

Airbnb says it is working to secure free, short-term housing for thousands of Ukrainians displaced by the war with Russia.

The vacation rental company announced on Monday that its nonprofit organization,, is committing to facilitating short-term lodging for up to 100,000 refugees. It's soliciting donations and urging people in Poland, Germany, Hungary and Romania to open up their homes if they can.

The stays will be funded by Airbnb Inc., donors to the Refugee Fund, as well as the "generosity of hosts through," it said in a release.

" will work directly through nonprofits on the ground, who are responsible for booking and coordinating stays for refugee guests," it said, adding that as it works to establish partners in each country, refugees and asylum-seekers in need of immediate support can get connected with resources from the U.N. refugee agency.

Top executives from Airbnb and — including Brian Chesky, the company's co-founder and CEO — sent letters to leaders across Europe on Monday, offering their support in welcoming refugees within their borders.

They started with Poland, Germany, Hungary and Romania, and aim to "work closely with governments to best support the specific needs in each country, including by providing longer-term stays."

People looking to either host or fund stays can find more information here, with the company promising more details to come.

"We know that Hosts and guests on Airbnb around the world will be eager to stand up and assist this massive effort to help those fleeing Ukraine," the company said. "In the coming days, Airbnb and will share additional details on how Hosts and the broader community can support this initiative, including by offering free or discounted stays."

The company, which is headquartered in San Francisco, said this move builds on its efforts to help people displaced by conflicts around the world (notably, amid criticism that itsshort-term rentals make affordable housing scarcer in cities across the U.S.).

The announcement comes just a week after Airbnb and shared they had provided housing for some 21,300 Afghan refugees, which they said was more than a third of all Afghan refugees to enter the U.S. in the last six months. The entities said they have connected more than 54,000 refugees and people who are seeking have been granted asylum — from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan and elsewhere — to temporary housing over the past five years.

Separately, they also set a goal of providing free, temporary housing to another 20,000 refugees from other regions including Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East and Central and South America.


Russia’s ruble collapses as sanctions hit, forcing Putin to hold an emergency meeting

Posted February 28, 2022 at 8:28 AM EST
People walk past a currency exchange office in central Moscow on Monday, Feb. 28. The Russian ruble collapsed against the dollar and the euro, as the West punished Moscow with new sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The ruble fell sharply at the start of currency trading, reaching 100.96 to the dollar, compared to 83.5 on Wednesday, the day before the invasion of Ukraine, and 113.52 to the euro, compared to 93.5 before the assault.
Alexander Nemenov
AFP via Getty Images
People walk past a currency exchange office in central Moscow on Monday. The Russian ruble collapsed against the dollar and the euro as the West punished Moscow with new sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Central Bank of Russia has more than doubled its key rate to 20%, grasping for ways to prop up the ruble — which fell to a record low on Monday. Regulators kept the stock market closed to limit the turmoil.

“External conditions for the Russian economy have drastically changed,” the central bank said, citing high inflation risks and volatility as it raised the rate.

The ruble fell steeply on Monday, raising fears of a run on Russia’s banks.

“In frantic trading when markets opened on Monday the ruble collapsed by at least 20%, passing the 100-mark against the U.S. dollar,” The Moscow Times reports. “Banks and exchange outlets around the capital were charging much higher rates for hard currency.”

The rate hike is the latest sign that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may be sparking the country’s worst financial crisis since the Soviet era. The bank had last raised its rate to 9.5% just two weeks ago.

Russia is now under severe sanctions, with certain banks cut off from SWIFT, the global system that is vital for banks to carry out secure transactions. In addition to that extraordinary move, a large chunk of Russia’s international currency reserves — estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars — has been frozen by Western authorities.

The sanctions and instability forced Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold an emergency meeting with his economic advisers on Monday.

Russia’s foreign exchange and money markets were allowed to open, even as officials waited to make a final decision on whether to allow trading in Russia’s stock market.

On the ground

Scenes from the Ukraine-Poland border, where traffic flows in both directions

Posted February 28, 2022 at 8:20 AM EST
A family of three walks on the highway carrying suitcases, next to a line of standstill cars.
Omar Marques
Getty Images
People arrive in Poland after crossing a border checkpoint on Sunday in Kroscienko, Poland.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have made their way to Poland in recent days after the country declared its borders open to refugees rushing to escape the Russian incursion. The U.N. refugee agency says more than 420,000 people have left Ukraine so far, and nearly half of them went to Poland.

Officials there say some 5,000 people entered on foot in a two-hour period on Saturday alone.

Most of them are women and children. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy banned male citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country last week. As NPR has reported, thousands of men have rushed to enlist in the military since Russian forces began their attack.

Poland is one of several European countries opening its borders to those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine — notably, months after it blocked Middle Eastern migrants from crossing into Belarus. The language officials are using highlights the different treatment they have given to refugees from varying parts of the world.

NPR journalists have been reporting from the main border crossings between Poland and Ukraine, where traffic is flowing in both directions. That's because while many Ukrainians are fleeing to safety, others are heading in to join the fight against Russia.

People described the scramble to leave their homes and family members

Morning Edition host Leila Fadel spoke to some of the people who have fled their homes in recent days.

She visited a train station in a Polish town some 6 miles from the Ukrainian border, which, she says, normally serves commuters but is now bringing in a steady stream of refugees, mainly women juggling their children, belongings and pets. Many told Fadel of challenges they faced in their scramble to leave.

One family described the full train breaking twice along the way, leaving passengers stranded for six hours and standing for a total of 15. A woman with three kids, including a 15-month-old, called her husband from the station after completing the 40-hour journey from Lviv (Fadel noticed she had heart emojis next to his name in her phone). Fadel also met a family that crossed into Poland on foot — just three years after fleeing Afghanistan for safety in Kyiv.

Listen to their stories here.

Families waiting to cross the border face uncertainty and freezing weather

India correspondent Lauren Frayer described the emotional scene at border crossing, with "refugees hobbling across, clearly exhausted, some of them holding children in their arms, dragging wheelie suitcases with whatever possessions they could manage to carry with them, some in tears."

"Polish firefighters, police and volunteers are handing out blankets and refugees told me that there's a huge backlog behind them, so tens of thousands of people in line," she told NPR'sAll Things Consideredover the weekend. "Many of the people I talked to said they spent 48 hours out in the cold, freezing temperatures outdoors ... shoulder to shoulder with crowds and crowds of people."

Polish officials and international volunteers are offering help at the scene.

There are growing piles of donated supplies, like water bottles and toilet paper rolls. World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit founded by chef José Andrés, is providing hot meals to thousands of refugees waiting in the cold.

The mayor of city of Sierpc brought bags of food and thousands of pounds of toys to distribute to children, assuring Frayer that despite his red jacket, he is no Santa Claus but "normal Polish people."

Even with the backlog of people leaving Ukraine, others are trying to get back in

Frayer spoke to several of the people making their way back into Ukraine, for different reasons.

There's Oksana Koresch, who had left her 8-year-old daughter with her parents back in Ukraine when she left for a job in France and was waiting at the border to go back in and collect her.

"She said she can't explain with words the emotion she's feeling, partially because her parents don't want to leave Ukraine," Frayer said. "So she's going to go get her daughter from them but then have to see her parents for a few minutes and then say goodbye to them again and then ... wait in that 48-hour line to get back to safety with her daughter."

There's a taxi driver named Yaroslav, who joked to Frayer that "this line better move quickly, because he's 59, and the cutoff for conscripts is 60." He served in the Soviet army as a young man and, after living abroad for years, is volunteering to fight against the Russians.

There are Olga and Sergey, a Ukrainian couple who happened to be on vacation in Lithuania when Russia attacked and are returning home to help however they can (she's a makeup artist, he's a sound director for films).

Olga says she can volunteer in a hospital, and Sergey — as a citizen of military age — is prepared to pick up a weapon and fight for his country.

Here's more from Frayer:

International Dispatch
World response

Officials in Israel walk a fine line to maintain ties to both Ukraine and Russia

Posted February 28, 2022 at 8:08 AM EST
Naftali Bennett walks with staff in front of a mural with a blue and white Israeli flag on it. He wears a face mask.
Abir Sultan
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has had to balance his country's cultural ties to Ukraine and military ties to Russia.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister is walking on eggshells regarding the conflict, including offering to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.

"We are conducting a measured and responsible policy,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said to his Cabinet ministers on Sunday.

Bennett is keeping good relations with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

He is opening Israel’s gates to new Ukrainian Jewish war refugees. Israeli emissaries are setting up six stations along Ukraine’s borders to process new immigrants who are Jewish or have Jewish relatives.

Bennett is also airlifting 100 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including water purification kits, drugs, and blankets.

But he is also keeping close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose military is stationed in Syria and who has given Israel the freedom to bomb Iranian and Syrian weapons and soldiers there. In that vein, Israel has reportedly rejected Ukrainian requests for military equipment.

Zelenskyy asked Bennett to mediate a cease-fire with Russia, and Bennett suggested that plan to Putin on Sunday. Ukrainian officials agreed to meet Russian negotiators on the Belarus border, but Israel is not a part of those “technical” cease-fire talks, Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk told NPR.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy are the only Jewish heads of state. In Israel, the prime minister is not the head of state. However, the current president of Israel and of several other countries are Jewish.


Where the crisis stands this morning

Posted February 28, 2022 at 8:08 AM EST
Servicemen of the Ukrainian Military Forces walk in the center of Kyiv on Monday.
Sergei Supinsky
AFP via Getty Images
Members of the Ukrainian military forces walk in the center of Kyiv on Monday.

Ukrainian officials arrived at the Belarusian border on Monday to potentially negotiate a cease-fire with a delegation from Russia. Hopes for the meeting remained low, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned he expects little progress from the talks. They had been delayed by disputes over where to meet.

The meeting kicked off as the Russian bombardment continued into Monday. Russian forces faced stiff resistance from Ukrainians, with Russian forces suffering from logistical problems, according to analysts and the U.S. military.

"They have not achieved what they intended on Day 4" of the invasion, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters on Sunday, with Ukrainians still in control of all major cities.

However, the situation could quickly change as Russia has only committed about two-thirds of its 150,000 to 190,000 service members who had been stationed around Ukraine as of Sunday, according to the U.S.

Zelenskyy accused Russia of intentionally targeting civilians and called for an international tribunal to investigate.

"Since the first hours of the invasion, Russian troops have been hitting civilian infrastructure. They consciously chose tactics to destroy people and everything that makes life just normal," Zelenskyy said in a speech on Sunday.

Other actions expected today:

  • In New York, the United Nations is set to convene an emergency session of its General Assembly on Monday for only the 11th time in more than 70 years. The emergency session allows all 193 members to debate and vote on a resolution calling for Russia's immediate withdrawal of troops from Ukraine.
  • President Biden plans to hold a secure call with allies and partners on the crisis at 11:15 a.m. ET.

Read more here on where the situation stands this morning.