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Latest Developments in Ukraine: Feb. 24

Avaaz members and Ukrainian refugees install thousands of teddy bears and toys at Schuman Roundabout in front of the European Commission to highlight the reported abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children by Russia on Thursday Feb,23, 2022 in Brussels.
Avaaz members and Ukrainian refugees install thousands of teddy bears and toys at Schuman Roundabout in front of the European Commission to highlight the reported abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children by Russia on Thursday Feb,23, 2022 in Brussels.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine. All times EST.

9:27 p.m.: Russians in Moscow and other cities brought flowers to Ukrainian poets and held one-person pickets with antiwar slogans Friday to mark the first anniversary of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

Russian media and civil rights groups reported at least a dozen detentions, part of the Kremlin's sweeping crackdown on dissent that has spiked to unprecedented levels since the start of the war.

At least eight people were detained in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, according to OVD-Info, a legal aid group that tracks political arrests. They all had brought flowers to the city’s monument to victims of political repression, the group said.

Online news outlet Sota filmed at least seven people being detained in St. Petersburg after they brought flowers to a monument for the renowned Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. Footage posted by the outlet showed a police officer explaining to a couple that they had violated coronavirus restrictions.

Sota also reported a person detained in Moscow, where people flocked to the monument of Lesya Ukrainka, another renowned Ukrainian poet, to lay flowers. A contingent of police officers monitored the group mostly didn't interrupt.

Five people were detained in the Siberian city of Barnaul, according to the Sibir.Realii news outlet, including a man who picketed a central square with a placard reading “Stop being silent.” In another Siberian city, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, a woman was detained for protesting with a banner that read, “We’re mourning. Forgive us, we screwed up our country,” the outlet reported.

8:22 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not need F-16s now, ruling out sending the fighter jets for the moment, in an interview to ABC News.

"He doesn't need F-16s now," Biden said. “I am ruling it out for now."

7:41 p.m.: Global financial crime watchdog Financial Action Task Force suspended Russia's membership on Friday, saying Moscow's war in Ukraine violated the organization's principles.

FATF is an inter-governmental organization set up to combat money laundering and terrorism financing by setting global standards and checking if countries respect them.

"This is the first time a member of FATF is suspended," FATF President Raja Kumar told a news conference. "Russia is effectively sidelined from the organization."

Ukraine welcomed the decision but added that it would continue its push FATF members to go further and blacklist Russia.

While Russia has now been suspended, it remains a member. The main consequences of Friday's decision will be that Russia will be barred from attending all meetings and accessing documents, FATF said.

7 p.m.: Thousands rallied in Georgia on Friday in solidarity with Ukraine on the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of the fellow ex-Soviet nation and in support of Tbilisi's European Union membership.

Some 20,000 demonstrators gathered outside parliament waving Georgian, Ukrainian and EU flags, according to an estimate by an AFP reporter.

The rally was organized by several opposition parties and Georgia-based Ukrainian activists.

Crowds chanted "Glory to Ukraine!" after Georgian and Ukrainian anthems were performed at the demonstration.

The rally was held amid growing discontent over what critics say is the Georgian government's backsliding on democracy which undermines the Black Sea nation's EU bid.

In a statement on Friday, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said: "The war, which Russia has begun, is totally unacceptable and from its very first day Georgian people stand with the people of Ukraine."

But his government has faced strong criticism from civil activists and the opposition for allegedly cultivating anti-Ukrainian sentiment and derailing Georgia from its pro-Western path.

6:05 p.m.: Ukraine's military said Friday Russia had doubled the number of ships on active duty in the Black Sea, and predicted this could be a preparation for more missile strikes.

"In the Black Sea, the fleet of warships has doubled compared to this morning — it is now eight ships," the military command in the southern region said in a Facebook update and predicted this could signify preparation for more missile strikes and drone attacks. Russia's navy has regularly launched missiles from its Black Sea Fleet as part of an effort by Moscow to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure and power generating facilities, Reuters reports.

One of the vessels is a frigate armed with eight Kalibr missiles, it said. Last Saturday Ukraine said Russia launched four Kalibr missiles from the Black Sea, two of which were shot down.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based in the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

5:30 p.m.: Russia warned Friday that it would view as an attack on itself any actions that threatened Russian peacekeepers in Moldova's breakaway Transnistria region, one day after Moscow accused Ukraine of planning an invasion.

In Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected Moscow's claim that Ukraine wanted to take over the region, while Moldova reiterated there was no truth to the allegations.

The warning comes amid increased concerns in Moldova, a small ex-Soviet republic bordering Ukraine, of a possible Russian threat. Its pro-European President Maia Sandu this month accused Moscow of plotting a coup, Reuters reports.

Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said what he called Russia's "provocative" comments about a possible Ukrainian attack were untrue.

"The Moldovan authorities have rejected these statements as unfounded, made to manipulate public opinion. The security situation in the region is stable," he wrote on the Telegram messaging app on Friday.

5:17 p.m.: Poland will send an additional 60 PT-91 Twardy main battle tanks to Ukraine "in the coming days," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said during a joint press conference with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Friday. PT-91 Twardy is a Polish upgraded version of the Soviet-era T-72 tank. Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion, Poland has provided Ukraine with 250 T-72 tanks. Morawiecki said that four Leopard 2 tanks already have arrived in Ukraine.

4:53 p.m.: During a press conference entitled “February. The Year of Invincibility," Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed the conviction that the military and political leadership of Russia will be brought to justice for war crimes committed in Ukraine, and he said he hopes for the help of the Netherlands in this process. "It is a tragedy – so many people have been killed. Therefore, someone has to be liable for it. And I believe in accountability to happen," he said.

4:12 p.m.: Germany will supply Ukraine with 18 Leopard 2A6 tanks instead of the 14 announced before, Germany's Defense Ministry said Friday.

Combined with the tanks that Portugal and Sweden will deliver, Ukraine will be able to create an entire battalion of Leopard 2A6 tanks, according to the ministry. A standard Ukrainian battalion consists of 31 tanks.

The Swedish government also said Friday it would send up to 10 Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

Portugal also plans to send three Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, as pledged by the country's Prime Minister Antonio Costa on February 8.

Other European nations, including Poland, Norway, Spain, the Netherlands and Finland, have also pledged Leopard tanks to Ukraine. The U.K. and U.S. have promised to transfer tanks from their arsenals as well, The Kyiv Independent reports.

3:27 p.m.: Speaking to reporters, U.N. Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that exactly one year since Russia’s full-scale invasion, nearly half of the people in Ukraine – almost 18 million people in Ukraine – need humanitarian aid and protection. That’s a six-fold increase from just one year ago.

“Since the start of the full-scale war we, along with our humanitarian partners in Ukraine, have made every effort to ramp up operations to provide life-saving support to those who need it most. In 2022, thousands of humanitarian convoys delivered vital supplies to people in all regions of Ukraine, including more than 50 interagency convoys that reached more than half a million people in areas close to the front line,” Dujarric said.

VOA’s Correspondent at the U.N., Margaret Besheer reports over the past year, the humanitarian community has reached nearly 16 million people with aid and protection services. That includes water, medicines, heating appliances, and other supplies – as well as support for home repairs.

The response also included the largest humanitarian cash assistance program in history. Some six million people received cash assistance totaling $1.2 billion.

3:07 p.m.: World leaders expressed support for Ukraine on Friday on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country.

In a tweet, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov, and reiterated President Joe Biden’s pledge to support Ukraine.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also marked the somber anniversary in a tweet.

U.S. President Joe Biden in a tweet quoted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy: “This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren live, and then their children and grandchildren.” Zelenskyy wasn’t just talking about the children of Ukraine, Biden said, he was speaking about all of us. In a separate tweet, he posted about the commitment of G-7 leaders to continue supporting Ukraine.

2:45 p.m.: At a somber ceremony outside the United Nations office in Geneva on Friday, ambassadors from countries allied with Ukraine observed a minute of silence and expressed their support for Kyiv during the first anniversary of Russia's invasion.

The permanent representatives to the U.N. of countries like France, Canada and the United Kingdom embraced their Ukrainian counterpart Yevheniia Filipenko, wearing a vyshyvanka, a traditional embroidered shirt, under her jacket.

"It is important that Ukrainians know that the world remembers them, that the world will speak about the Russian's atrocities, Russian's war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine," Filipenko told reporters, as diplomats and members of the local Ukrainian community surrounded her.

With Ukrainian blue and yellow flags draped around their shoulders, some spectators held signs calling for the international community to punish Russia over the invasion, Reuters reports.

Russia has denied committing atrocities in Ukraine.

2:15 p.m.: Three more European countries, besides Poland, have expressed their readiness to start training Ukrainian pilots on Western F-16 fighter jets, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday during a press conference marking the one- year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We have a real feeling that with three other European states - I will not say which ones - there is an opportunity to receive these trainings and planes,” he said, the Kyiv Independent reports.

1:45 p.m.: The World Bank announced Friday, $2.5 billion in additional grant financing for Ukraine to support the country's budget and to maintain essential services amid the Russian invasion.

"The funds, provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will be transmitted to the government of Ukraine after appropriate verification of eligible expenditures are made by the World Bank," it said in a statement, Reuters reports.

1:15 p.m.: In a number of tweets, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed U.S. commitment to help Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. He called for a swift end to the war but stressed Russia’s accountability for it. “We want this war to end as quickly as possible – with a just peace that respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

12:45 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday he plans to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping but did not say when. "I plan to meet Xi Jinping and believe this will be beneficial for our countries and for security in the world," he told a news conference in Kyiv on the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskiy had earlier reiterated that he would not hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Reuters reports.

12:15 p.m.: Fueling a growing standoff with Russia's political and military elite, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the shaven-headed former convict and catering magnate who runs Russia's Wagner mercenary army on the Ukraine frontline, said on Friday that a politician who criticized him should be shot and may end up on a pitchfork.

"During the 1941-45 war, which is now being repeated, Stalin simply shot people like you. I think we're going to return to those times soon," he told Sverdlovsk governor Yevgeny Kuivashev, according to his press service.

"I'm sure that the time is not far off when people will reach boiling point and raise you and people like you up on pitchforks," he added, alluding to peasant rebellions.

On Friday, the war's anniversary he announced that his men - including former prisoners like him - had captured a Ukrainian settlement on the outskirts of the small mining city of Bakhmut, which they have besieged for months, Reuters reports.

Prigozhin, 61, who did nine years' jail for theft and street muggings in the 1980s, has gained prominence since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

11:45 a.m.:

11:15 a.m.: Poland has delivered four Leopard tanks to Ukraine already and is prepared to deliver more quickly, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday, as Western nations increase their support to Kyiv a year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

"Poland and Europe stand by your side. We will definitely not leave you, we will support Ukraine until complete victory over Russia," Morawiecki said during a visit to Kyiv, standing next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Reuters reports.

10:45 a.m.:

10:15 a.m.: The United States will impose a 200% tariff on aluminum and derivatives produced in Russia effective March 10, the White House said on Friday as it announced sweeping sanctions related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The United States will also apply 200% tariff on aluminum imports with any amount of primary aluminum smelted or cast in Russia, starting on April 10, it said.

Russian aluminum is produced by Rusal RUAL.MM, 0486.HK which accounts for about 6% of global supplies. Supplies to the U.S. accounted for 7% of Rusal's revenue in the first half of 2022. Rusal declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Analysts have said this month that if Russia decides to retaliate on the 200% tariff on aluminum, it could potentially limit exports of nickel or palladium which are important for the U.S. imports.

9:45 a.m.: One year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. announced new sanctions on entities that have aided Russia’s illicit war.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of the Treasury says it is sanctioning Russia’s metals and mining sector among those targeted. The action, taken in coordination with the G7, seeks to punish 250 people and firms, puts financial blocks on banks, arms dealers and technology companies tied to weapons production, and goes after alleged sanctions evaders in countries from the United Arab Emirates to Switzerland.

“Our sanctions have had both short-term and long-term impact, seen acutely in Russia’s struggle to replenish its weapons and in its isolated economy,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in the statement. “Our actions today with our G7 partners show that we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

The sanctions come after the White House announced early Friday morning that the Pentagon would commit $2 billion for more rounds of ammunition and high-tech drones to Ukraine’s defense against Russia..

The U.S. State Department also marked the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine Friday, by sanctioning more than 60 top Russian officials, including cabinet ministers and regional leaders, and three enterprises that run the country's nuclear weapons program.

"We remain committed to supporting the people of Ukraine and are redoubling our efforts to promote accountability for the Kremlin's war," Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.

9:05 a.m.: After one year of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and nine years of war, the Wall of Remembrance honoring Ukrainian heroes who died defending their country is running out of space. A few days ago, US President Biden came here to pay tribute to the Ukrainian sacrifice. Russia is trying to wear down Ukrainians’ resistance with prolonged war and regular missile attacks, but those techniques have not been effective; they make Ukrainians more resilient. As the war drags on and evidence of Russian war crimes in liberated territories becomes known, public opinion research shows Ukrainians are overwhelmingly committed to victory and the liberation of their occupied territories. While the Ukrainian human sacrifice of this war is growing, it makes Ukrainians even more determined to defeat Russia and join the Euro-Atlantic community. VOA’s Myroslava Gongadze reports from Kyiv.

Myroslava Gongadze at Kyiv's Wall of Remembrance
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8:55 a.m. U.S. First Lady Jill Biden en route to Nairobi gave a statement, to the pool of reporters traveling with her, on Ukraine’s one year anniversary since Russia’s invasion on its soil. “So, I just wanted to say on the one-year anniversary of Ukraine that not a day goes by that where I don’t think about President Zelenskyy, Olena their family and all the people in Ukraine and what they’re going through. And how hard they’re fighting to keep their freedom.” VOA’s Anita Powell reports.

8:45 a.m.: Marking the one-year anniversary since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelenskyy recalled the day of the invasion "The longest day of our lives. The most difficult day in our recent history. We woke up early and haven't slept since."

Russia did not mark the anniversary. Instead, it set off fireworks on Thursday for the annual "Defenders of the Fatherland" holiday and held a pop concert on Wednesday attended by President Vladimir Putin.

China called in a 12-point foreign ministry paper for a comprehensive ceasefire and a gradual de-escalation while the U.N General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday demanding that Russia pull out. Russia's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy dismissed the action as "useless".

Washington announced new sanctions against Russia and its allies, new export controls and tariffs aimed at undermining Moscow's ability to wage war while Britain imposed export bans. The G7 nations are also planning new sanctions.

The United States plans to announce $250 million in aid to shore up Ukraine's energy infrastructure and $300 million for Moldova, draft documents showed. Canada announced more than $32 million in support for Ukraine.

Poland has delivered its first Leopard tanks to Ukraine, officials said.

Sweden will send up to 10 Leopard tanks and anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Defense Minister Pal Jonson said on Friday, Reuters reports.

8:30 a.m.: Activists protesting against Russia's invasion of Ukraine stationed a destroyed, rusty tank directly in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin on Friday.

"The broken tank signifies downfall. Ukraine is going to be Putin's Stalingrad," said Wieland Giebel, curator of the Berlin Story Bunker Museum, referring to Germany's defeat in a major battle in World War Two.

The Russian embassy was not available for comment.

The tank, a Russian T-72 B1, was destroyed on March 31, 2022, close to the village of Dmytrivka near Kyiv, by an anti-tank mine, according to organizer Giebel and colleague Enno Lenze, Reuters reports.

They said it was transferred to Germany with the help of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the Ukrainian National Museum of Military History.

It has been placed at the intersection of Schadowstrasse and the German capital's main tourist mile, Unter den Linden, where it will remain until Monday.

8:25 a.m.: On the anniversary of invincibility, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented state awards, conferred honorary titles upon military personnel and civilians, and handed over battle flags to military units of the Armed Forces and assault brigades of the Offensive Guard.

The ceremony took place on St. Sophia’s Square in Kyiv.

8:15 a.m.:

8:05 a.m.:

7:30 a.m.: A tearful Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion on Friday in a somber ceremony for the thousands of soldiers who have died.

On a cold, cloudy morning in Kyiv, Zelenskyy addressed members of Ukraine's armed forces and a small gathering of dignitaries in St Sophia Square, next to the green- and gold-domed cathedral that is a symbol of the city's resilience.

"I want to say to all of you who are fighting for Ukraine ... I am proud of you. We all, each and every one, are proud of you!"

Choking back tears he gave out Hero of Ukraine awards to troops - one of whom was on crutches - and to the mother of a soldier who had been killed.

Those present bowed their heads for a minute's silence.

Zelenskyy gave state awards to military chaplains at Kyiv's historic Lavra monastery complex, visited wounded soldiers undergoing treatment in a hospital, and hosted Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Reuters reports.

5:10 a.m.: The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said in its latest Ukraine assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin seems more concerned with appealing to ultranationalist pro-war ideologues with meaningless gestures than with presenting any new approach to achieving the Kremlin’s objectives in Ukraine.

Russian forces conducted ground attacks near Svatove and Kreminna, around Bakhmut, in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, and in western Donetsk Oblast. Russian authorities announced that they completed the repair of the Kerch Strait Bridge road spans ahead of schedule.

4:11 a.m.: China has called for a cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia and the opening of peace talks as part of a 12-point proposal to end the conflict, The Associated Press reported.

The plan issued Friday morning by the Foreign Ministry also urges the end of Western sanctions imposed on Russia, measures to ensure nuclear facilities, the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians and steps to ensure the export of grain, after disruptions caused global food prices to spike.

China has claimed to be neutral in the conflict, but it has a "no limits" relationship with Russia and has refused to criticize its invasion of Ukraine or even refer to it as such, while accusing the West of provoking the conflict and "fanning the flames" by providing Ukraine with defensive arms.

The peace proposal mainly elaborated on long-held Chinese positions, including referring to the need that all countries' "sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity be effectively guaranteed."

3:11 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K. defense ministry said that after Russia failed to take over Ukraine in 2022, it's now probably aiming for a war of attrition, counting on its larger population and greater resources to eventually overcome Ukraine.

2:07 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday expressed confidence in his country's victory over invading Russian forces, as the United Nations marked the eve of the war's first anniversary by voting overwhelmingly to demand Moscow withdraw.

Since the war started, Western leaders have rushed to support Kyiv, and G-7 ministers discussed new sanctions on Russia Thursday, while the White House said Washington would announce "sweeping" new measures.

Zelenskyy vowed to keep up the fight as Ukraine prepared to mark one year since the invasion on Friday.

"We have not broken down, we have overcome many ordeals and we will prevail," Zelensky said on social media, according to Agence France-Presse.

"We will hold to account all those who brought this evil, this war to our land."

1:07 a.m.: G-7 finance chiefs pressed the IMF on Thursday to urgently provide more aid to war-stricken Ukraine on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion, Agence France-Presse reported.

After talks in India, the group urged the International Monetary Fund "to deliver a credible, ambitious, fully financed and appropriately conditioned IMF program by the end of March 2023."

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire previously said he wanted the IMF to provide $15 billion over four years.

The G-7 said that for 2023, based on Ukraine's needs, it had increased its commitment of budget and economic support to $39 billion.

It added that sanctions so far have "significantly undermined Russia's capacity to wage its illegal war" and that the G-7 would "take further actions as needed."

12:02 a.m.: Global trade grew more than expected last year despite the upheaval caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, as badly affected countries managed to switch suppliers or products, the World Trade Organization said Thursday, Reuters reported.

The global trade watchdog had forecast just 3% growth for 2022 as the conflict caused major disruptions to exports including wheat and fuels. However, WTO Chief Economist Ralph Ossa, presenting its latest analysis of the war's impact on trade, said global trade had "held up well."

The WTO did not give the figure for last year, saying the data would be available in April.

Overall, Ukraine's exports collapsed by 30% last year in value terms, the report showed.

During the same period, Russia's exports increased by 15.6% because of higher prices for fuels, fertilizers and cereals, the WTO said. However, the report said its overall export volumes "might have slightly declined."

Some information in this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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