Russia invades Ukraine live updates: Russian advance on Ukraine's capital appears slower than the Kremlin expected
A senior U.S. defense official says the Russian advance is slower than the Kremlin anticipated, as Russian forces advance toward the capital city of Kyiv. Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Ukraine’s military to end its resistance and cooperate with Russia’s military, asking Ukraine’s military to seize power from what he called “terrorists” and “Nazis” running the government in Kyiv.
Catch up on how we got here:
- Timeline of the roots of conflict in Ukraine
- Why the U.S. uses sanctions despite their mixed record
- How NATO, Russia and Ukraine got so complicated
Follow the latest news on the invasion below.
More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia invaded
More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled their country since the start of Russia’s invasion and many more are moving toward the border, according to Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The majority of those refugees crossed into Poland and Moldova, Grandi said, with many more expected to follow in the coming days.
“Heartfelt thanks to the governments and people of countries keeping their borders open and welcoming refugees,” Grandi said on Twitter.
Moldova’s President Maia Sandu said her country’s borders are open to all Ukrainian citizens seeking “safe transit or stay.” Temporary placement centers have been set up in Palanca and Ocnita, she added.
Poland has also promised to welcome Ukrainians who are fleeing the war. Maciej Wasik, Poland’s deputy head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration, told Polish Radio that the country is preparing to take in up to a million people seeking refuge.
Refugees have also started to arrive in Hungary and Slovakia, Reuters reported.
More European countries are expected to help take in Ukrainian refugees, but it’s not clear whether all will do so at the same rate and whether they have the necessary infrastructure and resources.
Many countries have what experts call “migrant fatigue” after taking in other refugees in the recent past, said Michael Bociurkiw, a global affairs analyst and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He told NPR's A Martinez that it’s likely to be a “tricky situation” as country leaders try to “summon the political will to let in millions of refugees.”
Ukrainians are generally “regarded as very good workers” with a lot of talent — a view that Bociurkiw said will likely help the refugees.
“In Lviv, it's basically the Silicon Valley of Ukraine,” he said. “Many Ukrainians have multiple degrees. They will be anything, anything but a burden on these economies, which, by the way, happened to require a lot of human labor.”
Bociurkiw also said he believes most Ukrainians who are fleeing now will ultimately want to return home if and when it is safe to do so.
“They would like to come back,” he said. "Many left their homes, their jobs very abruptly. So this, I think, would just be a temporary stay for most of them.”
U.S. sanctions will target Putin and Lavrov, White House says
The United States will sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. The sanctions would be the latest against Russia this week over its invasion of Ukraine.
Biden spoke with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen before making the decision, Psaki told reporters.
Earlier, the European Commission announced that it would impose sanctions on Putin and Lavrov.
Russia is limiting access to Facebook. The company says it was ordered to stop fact-checking
Russia says it is limiting access to Facebook in the country, accusing the social network of censoring Russian media outlets.
In a statement on Friday, the country’s communications regulator claimed Facebook had restricted the official accounts of Zvezda, a TV channel run by the Russian defense ministry; the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency; and two news sites, Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru. It said that was a violation of Russian law and of human rights and freedoms.
The regulator said it has sent requests on Thursday to Facebook’s parent company, Meta, to explain the reason for the restrictions and to lift them.
Meta Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said in a statement that on Thursday, Russian authorities ordered the company to stop fact-checking and labeling posts from “four Russian state-owned media organizations,” which he did not identify.
“We refused. As a result, they have announced they will be restricting the use of our services,” Clegg said. “Ordinary Russians are using our apps to express themselves and organize for action. We want them to continue to make their voices heard, share what’s happening, and organize through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.”
On Thursday, Meta said it had created a special operations center to monitor the conflict in Ukraine and remove content that breaks its rules.
It’s not clear what the restrictions on the world’s largest social network will entail or if they will also apply to Meta’s other apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp. While Facebook does not disclose how many users it has in Russia, last year a poll found 9% of respondents said they used the social network, and 31% said they used Instagram.
The move against Facebook is the latest in a growing effort by the Russian government to tighten its grip on communication and stifle dissent.
Last year, Russia throttled access to Twitter after the company allegedly ignored requests to take down some posts, and threatened similar action against Facebook and Google. In December, a Russian court fined Meta 2 billion roubles, or about $27 million, for failing to remove content that Russia says violates its laws.
Editor’s note: Meta pays NPR to license NPR content.
Russia could be eyeing cryptocurrency to evade Western sanctions
Russia may try to use cryptocurrencies to evade Western sanctions.
The new attention on the Kremlin’s potential retreat to crypto follows President Biden targeting Russian financial institutions, including the country’s two largest banks, in a series of sanctions that Treasury officials say will hit nearly 80% of banking assets in Russia.
Experts say Russian banks and oligarchs in the country could try to pour money into cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, in an attempt to circumvent the banking blacklist. Yet that approach will run into limitations fast.
“While it’s likely already happening, there are problems with this,” said Ross Delston, a lawyer who specializes in money laundering cases.
First, converting crypto into a standard currency in order to buy things will not be easy. Getting around the international banking system would require persuading business partners to accept payment in a digital currency, presenting a major challenge. In other words, crypto could provide short-term shelter but it will be essentially stuck once a person or institution wants to make a transaction.
Cryptocurrencies operate on what is known as blockchains, public databases of transactions that are traceable. Delston said that while there are crafty ways to conceal crypto transactions, if Kremlin-tied individuals or institutions tried to sneakily convert a large volume of crypto into a currency, it will likely be detected.
“They would be caught and then the transaction would be frozen, so it is very risky,” Delston said.
Right now, the Biden administration’s sanctions are aimed at the banking sector, not Russia’s oil sector, a major driver of its economy. Delston said if the country’s oil trade is targeted by sanctions, using crypto as a possible escape may be further explored by Russia.
But he pointed out that federal law enforcement has become more sophisticated in exposing crypto schemes, potentially deterring Russia.
Furthermore, the crypto industry is responding. Coinbase, the largest U.S. crypto exchange, said in a statement to NPR that it is blocking IP addresses in areas affected by Western sanctions and working alongside authorities to ensure the sanctions are enforced.
Ukrainians in the U.S. express fear and anger at Russian invasion
Ukrainians in the U.S. are closely following the events of the Russian invasion, frantically connecting with family and friends still in Ukraine and speaking out against Russia's actions where they can.
Vira Derun was headed to bed on Wednesday night when she got a call from her sister, Anastasiia.
“She called me and she cried on the phone that Ukraine is under the bomb attacks,” Vira, a D.C. resident, says of her sister’s urgent call.
Both Ukrainian immigrants, the pair spent the coming hours worried about their parents, relatives, and friends in Bila Tserkva, a city about 50 miles south of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
Other Ukrainians in D.C. are organizing rallies and worrying about loved ones after news broke late Wednesday night in the U.S. that Russia had begun missile strikes and military barrages in Ukraine, creating chaos and fear for Ukrainian citizens.
In the morning Vira got up and went to D Light Cafe, the Adams Morgan bakery she owns with Anastasiia. She spent Thursday morning calling her family every hour, feeling the pressure of stress manifest in her lower back. She says her family is safe, staying in her grandmother’s house.
"My lower back is just burning all of the time,” Vira says, who called in another employee to help out in the shop so she and her sister can be glued to their phones. “This is stress I’ve never experienced before.”
According to WBEZ's Manuel Martinez, Claudia Morell, and Lauren Frost, hundreds gathered in the city's
Ukrainian Village neighborhood Thursday to protest the Russian invasion.
In New York City
On Thursday protesters took to the streets in New York to express their frustration.
In New York City, protestors, many of whom have loved ones in Ukraine, gathered outside of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation on East 91st Street and stressed the need for a worldwide united front to prevent war.
The crowd was at times led by Arthur Zgurov, a doctor from Odessa, Ukraine, as he screamed “stop Putin now” and “save Ukraine, save the world” through a megaphone.
Ukrainians guarding a Black Sea island issue a defiant response when Russia demands surrender
Ukrainian service members guarding a Black Sea island are being heralded for their defiant response to a Russian warship demanding their surrender.
A recording of the exchange was first published on the website of the Ukrainian news outlet Ukrayinska Pravda, and quickly spread through social media, eventually picked up by news organizations worldwide. Ukrainian and U.S. defense officials confirmed its authenticity to NPR’s Tom Bowman.
The Ukrainian forces were guarding Zmiinyi Island, or Snake Island as it’s known, which lies about 30 miles east of the southern border between Ukraine and Romania on the Black Sea.
“This is a Russian warship,” a voice on the recording can be heard saying. “I ask you to lay down your arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary deaths. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”
After a few brief moments, a terse response came from the Ukranians.
“Russian warship. Go f*** yourself.”
All of the guards were killed defending the island, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It’s been widely reported that the group was made up of 13 service members.
“On our Zmiinyi Island, defending it to the last, all the border guards died heroically. But did not give up,” Zelenskyy said in a speech at the end of the first day of Russia’s invasion.
“All of them will be posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine,” he added. “May the memory of those who gave their lives for Ukraine live forever.”
Russia disputes Ukraine’s version of the events. Russia’s defense ministry said that 82 Ukrainian service members voluntarily surrendered, according to the Russian state news agency, TASS. It did not indicate that there were any casualties.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov is quoted as saying that the men who surrendered “are signing written vows to reject military resistance. They will be returned to their families shortly.”
Snake Island was once used by the Soviet Union as a radar outpost, and has since been the subject of territorial disputes between Ukraine and Romania. An international court ultimately established a maritime boundary in 2009 that gave control of the island to Ukraine.
From COVID to Ukraine anxiety: 5 ways to cope with stressful news
Even after weeks of bracing for an attack amid speculation, global tensions and diplomatic attempts to stave off invasion, the reality of conflict is always a shock to the system.
A few ways you can support people in Ukraine include making donations to or spreading the word on this non-exhaustive list of organizations: UNICEF, Médecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, Voices of Children, Sunflower of Peace and International Committee of the Red Cross. (Read more on ways you can help.)
But there are so many more questions than answers.
NPR's Life Kit has been asking the same things, and offers the simple truth that sometimes when you don't have all the answers, it's OK to look for what you can control and seek comfort where you can.
While we wait for more information, don't forget to care for yourself in other ways:
Breathe. If you're feeling your body contracting or overheating, step away from whatever you're doing and take a deep breath. Here's a five-finger breathing exercise that can bring you back to the moment. Or if you want to take it a step further, try these meditation and mindfulness exercises for beginners.
Click here for four more simple ways to cope.
NATO leaders strongly condemn Russia's invasion and commit to additional defense in the region
NATO leaders are strongly condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and are calling for Russia to immediately withdraw, the organization said in a statement released Friday after a meeting discussing security in the region.
The alliance said it was now taking “significant additional defensive deployments of forces” to its eastern flank.
"We will make all deployments necessary to ensure strong and credible deterrence and defence across the Alliance, now and in the future. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory," NATO leaders wrote in a statement.
"We call on Russia to immediately cease its military assault, to withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and to turn back from the path of aggression it has chosen. This long-planned attack on Ukraine, an independent, peaceful and democratic country, is brutal and wholly unprovoked and unjustified," NATO said
"Peace on the European continent has been fundamentally shattered," NATO leaders said.
They also called on all states to condemn Russia's actions and provide support to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia's attacks.
While they note that sanctions have already been implemented against Russia, NATO said they will "take all measures and decisions required to ensure the security and defence of all Allies."
The International Olympic Committee tells sports bodies to cancel events in Russia and Belarus
Any sporting federation that has events planned in Russia or Belarus should cancel or relocate them, the International Olympic Committee’s executive board said Friday, in response to the violent invasion of Ukraine.
Russia and Belarus have broken the “Olympic Truce” that covers the Olympics and Paralympics, the board said.
The IOC body notes that the two countries are among the 193 U.N. members that adopted a U.N. resolution in December titled, "Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal.”
The executive board said it "expresses its deep concerns about the safety of the members of the Olympic Community in Ukraine and stands in full solidarity," adding that a special task force is in contact with Ukraine's Olympic community "to coordinate humanitarian assistance where possible."
The U.N. said the Olympic truce stems from “an ancient tradition of halting conflict” to ensure athletes and spectators can travel freely to competitions. The practice of formally adopting a resolution to that effect, with a one-week buffer before and after the Games, dates to 1993, it said.
The current truce extends from seven days before the Feb. 4 start date of the Beijing Olympics through seven days after the Winter Paralympics end on March 13.
Why a former Ukrainian official left his family and volunteered to fight
Two days ago, Volodymyr Omelyan was a politician in Kyiv who thought his future lay in Europe.
On Thursday, he and his family awoke to the sound of missile blasts nearby.
By Friday, he had said goodbye to his wife and children and enlisted to fight.
"I'm not a natural-born killer and I never dreamed to be that type of guy," said Omelyan, who served as Ukraine's infrastructure minister from 2016 to 2019. But he says he sees enlisting as a way to protect his family. And he's confident in the war's outcome.
"We will win," he told NPR.
He's one of the thousands of Ukrainians who are choosing to join the fight against Russia, despite grave risk.
"I see that my motherland is in danger. My kids are under the direct impact of the Russian invasion, and the only ability to stop all of them is to unite and to fight back," he toldMorning Editionon Thursday.
Before the invasion
NPR first met Omelyan in early February, after Ukraine was hit by a suspected Russian cyberattack and as the world anxiously watched Putin build up troops on the border. France's president had just arrived in Kyiv hoping to deter Putin with diplomatic messages. The prospect of war had been expected by some and dismissed by others.
Omelyan was a former high-ranking government official who was serving as a board member for a political party. His office building looked modern on the inside and post-Soviet the outside.
Omelyan told NPR then that Ukraine was bracing for more cyberattacks ahead of a possible invasion by Russia.
Omelyan said if Russia did attack, he knew Ukrainians would fight back. "We are ready for war," he told NPR's A Martínez.
Joining the defense
Now, after diplomacy failed and with Russian troops approaching Kyiv, NPR called him back and learned he has joined the fight himself.
"Different types of people, different ages came to the military stations with one request: 'Give us a weapon,' " Omelyan says. "We are ready to fight, and we are ready to kill."
Omelyan reports that the enlistment stations in Kyiv were overcrowded on Thursday. Ukraine's leaders have publicly called for citizens to take up arms and said they'll take enlistees over age 60, as long as they're physically able to fight.
Omelyan says he believes defending the capital, Kyiv, is important; it is a city he feels like he belongs to.
He says his family is away from the city and isn't feeling well after his enlistment and what they've been through the past two days. He hopes the war will be over quickly, and he believes Ukraine will win in the end.
"But we will always remember that it was Russians who did this to us," he says.
Changing course, Eurovision organizers say no Russian act will compete this year
It appears Russia has lost its spot on at least one world stage.
Organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest announced Friday that no Russian act will participate in this year's event in light of the country's attack on Ukraine.
The European Broadcast Union — the international public media association that organizes the wildly popular songwriting competition — said in a statement that the decision was made "based on the rules of the event and the values of the EBU."
It's a swift departure from organizers' public stance on Thursday, when they characterized Eurovision as a "non-political cultural event" and said Russian acts would be allowed to compete. The EBU's executive board has since decided otherwise.
"The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring the competition into disrepute," organizers said Friday.
Russia had not yet announced its contestant for the competition, whose website says countries have until mid-March to chose their entries. This year's event is set to take place May 10 to 14 in Turin, Italy.
Organizers noted that there was broad consensus among competition stakeholders.
They said the EBU executive board made its decision after "consulting widely among its membership" and following a recommendation from the contest's governing body, which is known as the Reference Group. The Reference Group's recommendation was also supported by the EBU's Television Committee, they added.
There was also public pressure, as NPR has reported.
The Ukrainian public broadcast network UA:PBC sent an open letter to the EBU on Thursday asking that Russian media be removed from the EBU and that Eurovision's 2022 Russian competitor be removed from the song contest.
Ukraine will be represented in the competition by rap group Kalush Orchestra, which finished second in the national final but won the public vote. Singer Alina Pash was originally set to be the country's contestant, but UA:PBC suspended its agreement with her as authorities investigate complaints that she toured Crimea in 2015, following its occupation by Russian forces.
Putin calls on Ukraine's military to topple the government in Kyiv
In an address to his U.N. Security Council on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Ukraine’s military to end its resistance and cooperate with Russia’s military, asking Ukraine’s military to seize power from what he called “terrorists” and “Nazis” running the government in Kyiv.
The Russian leader also argued that the main pockets of resistance to the invasion were coming from right-wing Ukrainian nationalists — who, Putin said, were being advised by “U.S. consultants” to use civilians in large cities as human shields.
“They act like terrorists all the world over: giving people hope of protection and then blaming Russia for the death of innocent civilians,” said Putin — providing no evidence.
Putin's accusations came as his spokesman suggested a Kremlin offer to send top Russian officials to meet with their Ukrainian counterparts for truce negotiations had broken down over the location of the talks.
Russia's advance in Ukraine is slower than the Kremlin expected, a senior U.S. defense official says
The Russian advance into Ukraine is slower than the Kremlin anticipated, as Russian forces advance toward the capital city of Kyiv, according to a senior U.S. defense official.
The northeastern city of Kharkiv also remains contested, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. The Russians have not yet taken any population centers. It’s believed that the Russians have lost “a bit of momentum,” although the Russians have only deployed about one-third of the estimated 190,000 troops it had amassed at Ukraine's borders.
U.S. officials still think the ultimate goal of Russia's invasion is to remove Ukraine’s government and install its own. At this point, Ukrainian command and control is still believed to be intact.
In addition, the senior U.S. defense official said an amphibious assault by thousands of Russian marines is underway west of Mariupol in southeast Ukraine near the Russian border.
Amnesty International says Russia launched indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas
Amnesty International is accusing Russia of launching indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas in Ukraine, which it said could amount to war crimes.
“The Russian military has shown a blatant disregard for civilian lives by using ballistic missiles and other explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said in a statement.
“Some of these attacks may be war crimes,” she added. “The Russian government, which falsely claims to use only precision-guided weapons, should take responsibility for these acts.”
The organization used satellite, photographic and video evidence to document three incidents in which it said the Russian military used inaccurate weapons that struck civilian areas.
The deadliest strike hit a hospital building in Donetsk, killing four civilians and wounding 10 others. Donetsk is a breakaway region in eastern Ukraine, and Russia recently stoked tensions by recognizing it as independent.
Amnesty International’s weapons investigator used photos from the scene to determine that a 9M79 Tochka ballistic missile, which is extremely inaccurate, was used in the attack. Hospitals are protected from being targeted in war under international law.
The human rights organization said these instances provide “irrefutable evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”
Amnesty International has called for the U.N. General Assembly to denounce these attacks.
Formula One cancels Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, a place dear to Putin
Fallout over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has now hit Sochi -- the resort town that’s a personal favorite of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The city had been slated to host a Formula One race in September, but the racing organization said Friday that it “is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances.”
The racing circuit’s original contract to hold the marquee event in Sochi was signed by Putin himself in 2010, in a splashy and successful bid to bring Formula One racing back to Russia for the first time in 100 years. Putin has attended the races personally.
But Formula One is canceling this year’s event, a move that comes after at least one high-profile driver threatened to boycott.
"We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation,” Formula One wrote in a statement about the decision.
Putin has long-standing ties to Sochi, where he maintains a large residence near the Black Sea resort city. He helped bring the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi, in a bid to boost the region and Russia’s standing in the world. The F1 race course was built in the Olympic Park that hosted the Games.
The Russian Grand Prix had been slated to take place in late September. The track has hosted seven grand prix races, according to Russia’s state-run Tass media.
News of the canceled race date comes as European soccer's governing body said it will move the Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris because of Russia's violent attack on Ukraine.
Ukraine tells male citizens aged 18 to 60 to stay and invites Europeans to come fight
Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine has forced many citizens to move out of their homes to seek safety, and some are leaving the country for refuge in neighboring nations. But Ukraine’s border agency says one group of people won’t be allowed to leave: Ukrainian male citizens who are 18 to 60 years old.
The policy will be in effect as long as Ukraine remains under martial law, Ukraine’s border guard service said in a statement.
In another bid to rally military support and repel Russian forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited men from around Europe to come fight, stressing that the war with Russia involves the entire continent.
“If you have a combat experience in Europe and do not want to look at the indecision of politicians, you can arrive in our state and protect Europe with us where it is now urgently required,” Zelenskyy said. He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to blackmail Europeans with natural gas supplies and to create schisms within the public.
Ukraine's military says thousands of its citizens have rushed to enlist since Russia launched a series of broad attacks on Thursday. Trying to attract more potential soldiers, the defense ministry said on Friday that it will accept men who are over 60 into military service, as well.
Ukrainians take shelter in the city's metro stations
Residents of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, sought shelter underground in Metro stations on Friday, as seen in video shared on social media.
People packed into the Universytet Metro stop as Russian forces were reported to be closing in on Kyiv. Video posted by @maksymtretiak showed people huddled on the floor, some wearing winter clothes and covered in blankets.
Ukrainians rush to enlist after Russia’s shocking invasion
Ukrainians are rushing to enlist in the armed forces in response to Russia’s invasion. The military says thousands have already joined up; Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the service is now accepting enlistees over age 60, as long as they're physically able.
“Hundreds of men of all ages gathered in front of the townhall in the central Ukrainian town of Mankivka to join the army,” NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reported from central Ukraine.
She spoke to a man named Victor, who came to enlist along with his son. He did not want to give his last name.
“Ukraine will not kneel,” Victor said. “We will push these bastards from our land.”
That attitude is in line with Ukraine's leaders, who are calling on regular citizens to take up arms against Russia after Thursday's full-scale invasion.
“From the folks that we've been speaking to out here, there's a real sense of shock,” NPR’s Tim Mak reported. “Many Ukrainians did not think the war would break out in such dramatic and large-scale fashion.”
Now that the war has begun, he added, military-age males across the country are mobilizing to join the fight.
Many Ukrainians are fleeing cities, looking for safety from artillery and missile barrages. That has led to massive traffic jams on some major roads, as well as fuel shortages at gas stations. One of the biggest outflows has come from Kyiv, which is threatened by Russian troops. But some people are staying put.
“Our home is here,” a woman named Vera told Beardsley in Mankivka. “We have to be here, we have to be brave to show the Russian [occupiers] that it's our home — not his.”
Travel and cruise companies are dropping Russia from their itineraries
Public television icon, guidebook author and travel expert Rick Steves says his company is canceling all European tours that include a stop in Russia for the rest of the year in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
Rick Steves Europe aims to equip Americans to travel Europe in practical and "culturally broadening" ways, including on its television program and group tours within and between various countries on the continent. Steves announced the news in a Thursday blog post titled "Comrades No More."
"Our mission at RSE is to help Americans better know and understand our neighbors through travel," he wrote. "But when we bring travelers to another country, we also bring their dollars — dollars that would support Putin’s aggression. Therefore, as of today, we have canceled all 2022 tours that include a stop in Russia."
Steves said the company will keep an eye on events and potential impacts on the rest of Europe but sees no reason to change any other travel or touring plans at this time.
"It is important to keep geographic realities in mind and remember that a war in Ukraine is as far from our European vacation dreams as a war in Guatemala would be from Texas or Florida," he said.
In the meantime, he encouraged travelers and would-be travelers to count their blessings, support the nation's leaders as they navigate the crisis and keep "the troubled corners of our world" in their thoughts and prayers.
RSE isn't the only member of the travel industry to adjust its itineraries in response to Russia's invasion.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced Thursday that three of its cruise lines are removing their Russian calls to port in 2022. Viking and Atlas Ocean Voyages are also replacing Russian destinations on several of their cruises for the year.
European soccer officials have moved the Champions League final from Russia to France
European soccer's governing body is relocating the biggest club game of the year from Russia to France because of what it called the "grave escalation of the security situation in Europe."
Following a Friday meeting, the UEFA Executive Committee announced that the final of the men's Champions League will take place in Paris rather than in St. Petersburg, on its originally scheduled date of May 28. It will be played in Stade de France in Saint-Denis, the national stadium just north of Paris.
In a statement, the group thanked French President Emmanual Macron for his commitment and support in having "European club football's most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis."
"Together with the French government, UEFA will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement," it added.
The executive committee also announced that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams competing in UEFA competitions must play their home matches at "neutral venues" for the time being.
The announcement follows days of speculation and calls for Russia to be stripped of its hosting duties, both from European fans and government officials — especially in Britain, where authorities had lobbied for the final to come to London. The New York Times reports that Paris was chosen because it hasn't hosted the game since 2006 and because France currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.
This is the third consecutive year that the Champions League final had to be relocated (it was moved to Portugal for the past two years because of COVID-19) and the first time the game will be played with a full stadium of spectators since the pandemic began.
The Times reports that the move puts growing pressure on FIFA, world soccer's governing body, to relocate a World Cup qualifying match that is set to take place between Russia and Poland in Moscow in March. The winner of that game would go on to play the victor of Sweden vs. Czech Republic for a spot in the World Cup in Qatar this fall.
The soccer associations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic released a joint letter on Thursday saying they would "not consider traveling to Russia and playing football matches there" and urging officials to move the March playoff games out of the country.
"The military escalation that we are observing entails serious consequences and considerably lower safety for our national football teams and official delegations," they added.
FIFA said in a statement that it would monitor the situation and communicate updates "in due course." It also condemned Russia's use of force in Ukraine and called on all parties to restore peace through dialogue.
Kremlin spokesman says Russia is ready to negotiate with Ukraine
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told journalists Friday that Russia is prepared to meet with Ukrainian negotiators in Minsk, the capital of Russian ally Belarus.
The statement was in response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday to “sit down at the negotiation table. To stop the killing.”
According to the Russian news agency Interfax, Peskov said Russia is responding to Zelenskyy’s statement that Ukraine is willing to discuss neutrality for Ukraine. Peskov said Russia’s goal remains the “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine” and that Ukrainian neutrality would be a component of that.
“In that context and in response to Zelenskyy’s proposal, Vladimir Putin is ready to send a Russian delegation to Minsk with representatives of the ministries of defense, foreign affairs and the presidential administration for negotiations with the Ukrainian delegation,” Peskov said.
Putin tells China's Xi that he's willing to hold high-level talks with Ukraine to resolve conflict
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking by telephone on Friday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, said Moscow would be willing to hold high-level talks with Ukraine in an effort to resolve the ongoing conflict in the country where the Kremlin's forces have launched an all-out invasion.
In the second high-level call between the two countries in as many days, Putin apparently aimed to shore up relations with his Chinese counterpart. The two have drawn closer in the runup to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with China being one of the few countries to lend even qualified support to Putin's actions in Ukraine, which have been widely condemned.
Beijing and Moscow, once Cold War rivals, have grown increasingly ideologically aligned in recent years. During a visit by Putin to Beijing for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, he and Xi issued a joint pact declaring that their partnership had “no limit."
On Friday's call, Putin blamed his invasion of Ukraine on the country’s refusal to give autonomy to separatist regions overrun by Russian militias and on the U.S. and NATO for ignoring "Russia's reasonable security concerns," according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
According to CCTV, Xi said he respected each country’s national security concerns but urged all parties to obey United Nations charter principles when resolving tensions. China has yet to call Russia's assault an invasion, but Xi said China’s position would be “determined by right and wrong."
Putin reiterated that Washington and its allies "repeatedly reneged on their commitments, and continued to advance military deployment eastward, challenging Russia's strategic bottom line," telling Xi that "Russia is willing to conduct high-level negotiations with Ukraine."
However, there was no indication whether the Russian leader meant the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which is currently under attack, or a future government installed by Moscow.
Hundreds of anti-war protesters in dozens of Russian cities have been arrested
Thousands of Russians took to the streets to protest their president's invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, a striking display of anger in a country that increasingly restricts and cracks down on such spontaneous demonstrations.
The Associated Press reports that some 1,745 people in 54 Russian cities were detained in a single day, at least 957 of them in Moscow.
Protesters gathered in Moscow's Pushkin Square, chanting "No to war!" according to Al Jazeera. About 340 people were reportedly arrested in St. Petersburg, where one woman told the network that people had been "fooled by propaganda" and are largely unwilling to protest in Russia.
One unnamed young man being dragged away by three police officers shouted: “Who are you fighting with? Arrest Putin.”
Many Russians signed open letters and petitions demanding the Kremlin stop its assault on Ukraine and calling for mass protests.
A petition created by prominent human rights advocate Lev Ponomaryov had garnered more than 330,000 signatures by the end of the day, the AP notes. More than 250 journalists signed an open letter decrying the attack, some 250 scientists signed another, and nearly 200 municipal council members in Moscow and other cities signed a third.
The Investigative Committee of Russia — the country's main federal investigating authority — warned in a statement on Thursday that protesters could be held criminally liable for participating in mass protests. It blamed mass media, the internet and social networks for "spreading calls to participate in mass riots and rallies associated with the tense foreign policy situation."
"We remind that calls for participation and direct participation in events that are not authorized in accordance with the established procedure entail serious legal consequences," it said. "The law provides for severe punishment for organizing mass riots, as well as for resisting law enforcement officers. According to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, people who committed such illegal acts may face imprisonment."
It added that offenses would be given "adequate legal evaluation" and that perpetrators would face "appropriate punishment."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged the Russian protesters in televised remarks on Friday, in which he switched to speaking Russian and urged viewers to "Fight for us, fight against war."
Protesters have also turned out in droves around the world and across the United States.
Russia's military has a massive advantage in Ukraine, retired U.S. admiral says
The odds are overwhelmingly against the Ukrainians in their war with Russia, retired U.S. Navy Adm. James Foggo, former commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and NATO's Allied Joint Force Command Naples, told NPR.
"With 200,000 Russian troops and all that armor, the aircraft, artillery and tanks ... it's hard to be an even match for the Russian military when they have so much preponderance of force," he said.
He said reports from the front lines indicate that Ukraine's military forces are fighting hard against the invading troops, using many of the weapons they've recently acquired to defend themselves.
"The Javelin missiles, the anti-tank missiles that went in there, in a rush to get those in there in the last couple of months, those are very effective against Russian armor," Foggo said.
Those and other weapons, including Stinger missiles and man-portable air defense systems, "need to continue to flow to Ukraine so that they can continue to fight," he said.
Despite those efforts, it is unlikely that without some meaningful intervention, Ukrainians will be able to effectively stave off the military invasion. But Foggo said the conflict could take on another dimension, if Ukrainians keep fighting.
"If this thing turns into something else like an insurgency, it's going to go on for a long time," he said.
Foggo said the U.S. and its allies should continue to use sanctions and should ensure that the conflict is contained within Ukraine's borders to avoid "spillover effects" into the Baltics, Poland and Romania.
"Moldova is the only thing between the Ukraine and the Russians and NATO," Foggo said, adding that a direct clash between Russian and American troops would trigger NATO's Article 5 of collective defense, inevitably pushing allies into "a world war."
Ukraine’s military retakes a key airport near Kyiv, but the capital is under dire threat
“Obviously, it's a very fluid situation, but we're receiving some reports that the initial stages are not going as well for the Russian military as they might have hoped,” NPR's Tim Mak reports from Ukraine.
Russian forces had seized control of the Antonov Airport on Thursday — a striking development, as it would clear the way for Russia to land troops and equipment some 20 miles from Kyiv, the capital.
“But Ukrainian forces have now captured it in a counteroffensive,” Mak said. “Ukrainians are also reporting that they've halted an element of Russian tanks north of Kyiv by blowing up a key bridge. The Ukrainian defense minister called on residents in a northwest suburb of Kiev to prepare Molotov cocktails for the ongoing fight.”
While Ukraine’s military is touting its victories, the overall outlook remains bleak. Russia’s forces are advancing toward Kyiv, and experts believe their goal is to circle the capital and force the government to capitulate.
As Ukrainians absorbed the shock of the invasion, Mak said, men gathered in town squares to enlist in the military and join the fight.
Zelenskyy says Russia is targeting him and his family
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that Russia’s military is set on entering Kyiv and that he and his family are the top targets.
"The enemy marked me as target No. 1, my family as target No. 2," he said in a late night national address.
Russia denies that it’s targeting civilians in Ukraine: “There are no threats whatsoever to the civilian population,” Russian state-run media Tass reports. The Russian Defense Ministry says it’s limiting its assaults “to surgically striking and incapacitating Ukrainian military infrastructure,” the outlet added.
But Zelenskyy called such statements outright lies, saying on Friday that “the military and civilians are equally under Russian attack.” He compared the violent scenes to World War II.
“Enemy aircraft operate treacherously over residential areas, including the capital,” the president said. “Terrible explosions in the morning sky over Kyiv, bombing, hitting a house, fire — all this reminds of the first such attack on our capital, which took place in 1941.”
Speaking to the citizens of Russia who have taken to the streets in mass protests, Zelenskyy said, “I want to say — we see you. This means that you heard us. This means that you begin to trust us. Fight for us. Fight against the war.”
Here are some ways you can help the people of Ukraine
As the Russian military invasion of Ukraine has unfolded, so too has a humanitarian crisis that has forced civilians to flee their homes or take refuge in bomb shelters and subway stations throughout the country.
As the world watches on TVs and smartphones, it's a natural thought to want to help in some way.
Here's a nonexhaustive list of organizations that are asking for assistance. Donations can be made through the links to their websites or social media pages. Click here to read more about them.
Where things stand on Day 2 of Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine is now under martial law and its capital is under attack, as Russia’s invading military launches new operations after attacking cities with missiles overnight.
Ukraine’s “military and civilians are equally under Russian attack,” as Russia tries to put pressure on the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday.
Zelenskyy remains in Kyiv, despite the widespread belief that Russia’s main goal is to capture the capital. The Russians want to destroy Ukraine’s leadership — including Zelenskyy, presidential adviser Myhailo Podolyak said on Friday.
Russia's barrage of land and airstrikes have killed at least 137 Ukrainians and wounded 316 others, Zelenskyy said late Thursday.
Ukraine’s defense ministry says that as of 9 a.m. local time Friday, Ukrainian forces had destroyed seven Russian planes, six helicopters, more than 30 Russian tanks and 130 units of armored vehicles. The Russian forces have lost approximately 800 people, it added.
Zelenskyy said in a national address late Thursday that "sabotage groups" had entered the capital and that he and his family were their top targets.
"The enemy marked me as target No. 1, my family as target No. 2," he told his countrymen.
Describing the conditions for regular citizens, Podolyak said that while long lines for gasoline and traffic jams are a real problem because of panicked people who want to get out of harm’s way, banks are operating, trains are running and most roads are open. Ukraine is in a manageable situation, he said.
Russian forces are carrying out a multipronged assault from land, sea and air. Troops are moving across the border on land from the north and the east. To the south, they are attacking from both Crimea (which Russia annexed in 2014) and the Black Sea. And they are shelling several major cities including Kyiv and airfields throughout the country.
The invasion has sent shock waves throughout Europe and its military and business partners, triggering condemnation, sanctions — and concerns that the violence could spread.
On Thursday, President Biden ordered 7,000 additional U.S. troops to potentially bolster NATO forces in Europe. Biden said he has asked top Pentagon leaders to prepare for "additional moves should it become necessary to protect our NATO allies."