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Moment Sky News crew race for cover as they come under mortar fire in eastern Ukraine 

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A British news crew covering the Russian war in Ukraine were forced to run for their lives during shelling in the south-east of the country.

Dramatic video shows Sky News correspondent Alex Rossi scrambling for cover from mortar fire in Berdyansk on the coast of the Sea of Azov around 50 miles from the strategically important port city of Mariupol.

Sheltering in a nearby building, he says: ‘It just shows how quickly things can change here. We were outside filming. [It was] really calm. There had been shells that had come in this morning. But again, it had gone quiet, everything felt very, very normal. We’ve just had to come in here to take cover because there’s been incoming mortar fire.’

Mariupol appears to have come under fire attack by Kremlin forces as Russian dictator Vladimir Putin attempts to strangle a vital shipping route used by Ukraine to wreck the country’s economy as it fights a war of national survival.

The most important Ukrainian port in the Azov Sea, Mariupol mainly handles relatively small ships of between 3,000 to 10,000 tonnes deadweight.

The Azov Sea ports mainly export wheat, barley and corn to Mediterranean importers like Turkey, Italy, Cyprus, Egypt and Lebanon. Russia and Ukraine are both major exporters of wheat and grain, and industry experts fear the war will cause a surge in global food prices.

Russia is pressing its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital today after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides in an attack that could rewrite the global post-Cold War security order.

Explosions sounded before dawn in Kyiv as Western leaders scheduled an emergency meeting and Ukraine’s president pleaded for international help.

The nature of the explosions was not immediately clear, but the blasts came amid signs that the capital and largest Ukrainian city was increasingly threatened following a day of fighting that left more than 100 Ukrainians dead.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the government had information that ‘subversive groups’ were encroaching on the city, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kyiv ‘could well be under siege’ in what US officials believe is a brazen attempt by Putin to install a puppet regime.

In other developments:

  • Global markets tanked with Russia’s ruble sliding to its lowest value ever;
  • The price of oil shot up to over $100 per barrel;
  • The EU will freeze Russian assets, halt access to financial market and target ‘Kremlin interests’;
  • G7 called Putin a ‘threat to global order’ vowing ‘severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions’;
  • Joe Biden announced new sanctions targeting Russian banks, exports and military; 
  • Russia’s largest bank Sberbank will be severed from the US financial system, and full sanctions are imposed on four other financial institutions; 
  • Boris Johnson called the invasion a ‘catastrophe for our continent’ and branded Putin a ‘dictator’; 
  • China repeated calls for talks but refusing to criticise Russia’s attack; 
  • Moldova declared a state of emergency;
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said invasion is ‘heavy blow’ to regional peace;
  • NATO ambassadors scheduled an emergency meeting on Thursday; 
  • UN Security Council will discuss a resolution condemning the invasion;
  • Ukraine demanded the world banish Russia from SWIFT banking system. 
Sky News correspondent Alex Rossi reporting the war in Ukraine from Berdyansk on the coast of the Sea of Azov

Sky News correspondent Alex Rossi reporting the war in Ukraine from Berdyansk on the coast of the Sea of Azov

Dramatic footage shows him running for cover during shelling in the south-east of the country under Russian attack

Dramatic footage shows him running for cover during shelling in the south-east of the country under Russian attack

Sheltering in a nearby building, he says: ‘It just shows how quickly things can change here’

Sheltering in a nearby building, he says: ‘It just shows how quickly things can change here’

Russian ships blockade the Kerch Strait: Putin has ordered the Russian navy to conduct a'special anti-terror operation' in the Azov Sea, shutting off a vital maritime trade route into Ukraine

Russian ships blockade the Kerch Strait: Putin has ordered the Russian navy to conduct a ‘special anti-terror operation’ in the Azov Sea, shutting off a vital maritime trade route into Ukraine

Firefighters work at a damaged residential building at Koshytsa Street, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where a military shell allegedly hit, on February 25, 2022

Firefighters work at a damaged residential building at Koshytsa Street, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where a military shell allegedly hit, on February 25, 2022

People gathering in an air raid shelter in capital city Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2022

People gathering in an air raid shelter in capital city Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2022

A Russian tank is seen heading towards Okhtyrka, near Sumy in the east of Ukraine

A Russian tank is seen heading towards Okhtyrka, near Sumy in the east of Ukraine

Biden warns Putin that the US will be ‘involved’ if he moves into NATO countries as Ukraine hands out 10,000 assault rifles to citizens: President still insists he won’t send American forces into Kyiv – but deploys 7,000 to Germany 

President Joe Biden on Thursday warned Vladimir Putin that U.S. forces will defend NATO territory if he broadens his assault beyond Ukraine, and said he was ordering more troops to Europe.

Soon after he spoke the Pentagon said 7000 extra personnel and hardware were being deployed to Germany.

In a White House speech, Biden slapped a new round of sanctions on Russia and promised that Putin’s country would bear the consequences of his aggression against Ukraine.

He said American forces would not engage with Russian troops in Ukraine.

‘Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies and reassure those allies in the east,’ he said.

‘As I made crystal clear, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power.’

In a question-and-answer session with reporters, he was asked if that meant American soldiers would fight if Russia attacked NATO territory.

‘If he did move into NATO countries we will be involved,’ he said. ‘We will be involved.’

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers on a phone call that Russian mechanized forces that entered from Belarus were about 20 miles from Kyiv, according to a person familiar with the call.

The assault, anticipated for weeks by the US and Western allies and undertaken by Putin in the face of international condemnation and cascading sanctions, amounts to the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.

Russian missiles bombarded cities and military bases in the first day of the attack, and Ukraine officials said they had lost control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.

As explosions sounded in Kyiv early Friday, guests of a hotel were directed to a makeshift basement shelter. Air raid sirens also went off.

‘Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and won’t give up its freedom,’ Zelenskyy tweeted. His grasp on power increasingly tenuous, he called Thursday for even more severe sanctions than the ones imposed by Western allies and ordered a full military mobilization that would last 90 days.

Zelenskyy said in a video address that 137 ‘heroes’, including 10 military officers, had been killed and 316 people wounded. The dead included border guards on the Zmiinyi Island in the Odesa region, which was taken over by Russians.

He concluded an emotional speech by saying that ‘the fate of the country depends fully on our army, security forces, all of our defenders’. He also said the country had heard from Moscow that ‘they want to talk about Ukraine’s neutral status’.

Biden was to meet Friday morning with fellow leaders of NATO governments in what the White House described as an ‘extraordinary virtual summit’ to discuss Ukraine.

Joe Biden announced new sanctions against Russia, saying Putin ‘chose this war’ and had exhibited a ‘sinister’ view of the world in which nations take what they want by force. Other nations also announced sanctions, or said they would shortly.

‘It was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary – by bullying Russia’s neighbors through coercion and corruption, by changing borders by force, and, ultimately, by choosing a war without a cause,’ Biden said.

Blinken said in television interviews that he was convinced that Russia was intent on overthrowing the Ukrainian government, telling CBS that Putin wants to ‘reconstitute the Soviet empire’ and that Kyiv was already ‘under threat, and it could well be under siege’.

Fearing a Russian attack on the capital city, thousands of people went deep underground as night fell, jamming Kyiv’s subway stations.

At times it felt almost cheerful. Families ate dinner. Children played. Adults chatted. People brought sleeping bags or dogs or crossword puzzles – anything to alleviate the waiting and the long night ahead.

But the exhaustion was clear on many faces. And the worries.

‘Nobody believed that this war would start and that they would take Kyiv directly,’ said Anton Mironov, waiting out the night in one of the old Soviet metro stations. ‘I feel mostly fatigue. None of it feels real.’

Smoldering wreckage of a Russian jet is seen in Kyiv on Friday morning

Smoldering wreckage of a Russian jet is seen in Kyiv on Friday morning

The jet landed in Kyiv, shot down by a Ukrainian missile

The jet landed in Kyiv, shot down by a Ukrainian missile

Kyiv was ablaze in the early hours of Friday as the city came under attack from Russia. Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashenko shared footage on social media of a blaze in what he said was the Darnitsky district of Kyiv

Kyiv was ablaze in the early hours of Friday as the city came under attack from Russia. Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashenko shared footage on social media of a blaze in what he said was the Darnitsky district of Kyiv

The Kyiv apartment block is seen ablaze on Friday morning. It is unclear what caused the fire

The Kyiv apartment block is seen ablaze on Friday morning. It is unclear what caused the fire

A Russian T-72 tank is pictured sitting in front of the main reactor at Chernobyl after Putin's forces seized it in a'fierce' battle with the condition of nuclear storage facilities'unknown'

A Russian T-72 tank is pictured sitting in front of the main reactor at Chernobyl after Putin’s forces seized it in a ‘fierce’ battle with the condition of nuclear storage facilities ‘unknown’

Russian Mi-8 attack helicopters stage an assault on Gostomel air base, just on the outskirts of Kyiv, after Vladimir Putin launched an all-out attack on the country

Russian Mi-8 attack helicopters stage an assault on Gostomel air base, just on the outskirts of Kyiv, after Vladimir Putin launched an all-out attack on the country

EU blocks our bid to punish Russia: Anger as union refuses to kick Moscow out of global bank payment system while West imposes sanctions over Ukraine war 

The European Union faced an angry backlash last night after frustrating British efforts to kick Russia out of the world’s biggest financial payments system.

In a call with G7 leaders yesterday, Boris Johnson pressed the case for suspending Russia from Swift, which is used to conduct about half of its international trade.

But the move was kicked into the long grass because of opposition from a number of EU countries.

Ukraine yesterday urged the West to trigger the move, with foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba warning that those who refused would have ‘blood on their hands’.

Downing Street yesterday declined to comment on which countries had opposed the move.

But Joe Biden last night indicated the opposition had come from EU states. Asked whether Russia should be cut off from Swift, the US President said: ‘It is always an option but right now that’s not a position that the rest of Europe wishes to take.’

The Belgian-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) is a mechanism for making secure payments overseas and is widely used in international trade.

The invasion began early Thursday with a series of missile strikes, many on key government and military installations, quickly followed by a three-pronged ground assault.

Ukrainian and US officials said Russian forces were attacking from the east toward Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city; from the southern region of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014; and from Belarus to the north.

The Ukrainian military on Friday reported significant fighting in the area of Ivankiv, about 40 miles northwest of Kyiv, as Russian forces apparently tried to advance on the capital from the north. It said one bridge across a small river had been destroyed.

‘The hardest day will be today. The enemy’s plan is to break through with tank columns from the side of Ivankiv and Chernihiv to Kyiv. Russian tanks burn perfectly when hit by our ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles),’ Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Telegram.

Zelenskyy, who had earlier cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law, appealed to global leaders, saying that ‘if you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer a powerful assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door’.

Though Biden said he had no plans to speak with Putin, the Russian leader did have what the Kremlin described as a ‘serious and frank exchange’ with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Both sides claimed to have destroyed some of the other’s aircraft and military hardware, though little of that could be confirmed.

Hours after the invasion began, Russian forces seized control of the now-unused Chernobyl plant and its surrounding exclusion zone after a fierce battle, presidential adviser Myhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said it was told by Ukraine of the takeover, adding that there had been ‘no casualties or destruction at the industrial site’.

The 1986 disaster occurred when a nuclear reactor at the plant 80 miles north of Kyiv exploded, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe. The damaged reactor was later covered by a protective shell to prevent leaks.

Alyona Shevtsova, adviser to the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, wrote on Facebook that staff members at the Chernobyl plant had been ‘taken hostage’. The White House said it was ‘outraged’ by reports of the detentions.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense issued an update saying that though the plant was ‘likely captured’, the country’s forces had halted Russia’s advance toward Chernihiv and that it was unlikely that Russia had achieved its planned Day One military objectives.

The chief of the NATO alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said the ‘brutal act of war’ shattered peace in Europe, joining a chorus of world leaders decrying an attack that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government.

The conflict shook global financial markets: Stocks plunged and oil prices soared amid concerns that heating bills and food prices would skyrocket.

Fire fighters are seen responding to a blaze at a residential building in Kyiv in the early hours of Friday

Fire fighters are seen responding to a blaze at a residential building in Kyiv in the early hours of Friday

Blinken says Putin has set his sights BEYOND Ukraine as Russian artillery is seen massing on Polish border with Belarus: Claims he’s ‘convinced’ Kremlin wants regime change Kyiv 

Vladimir Putin may not stop once he has taken Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has warned, as satellite images show Russia assembling troops, armor and artillery along Belarus’s border with Poland.

The massive buildup was spotted in the Belarus city of Brest, just 10 miles east of the the Polish border.

‘Russia has assembled troops, armor, artillery, and more than 50 heavy equipment transporters at a training area in Brest, the Polish border. Russia has also added more equipment at a nearby railyard in Belarus,’ said reporter Jack Detsch, a Pentagon and national security correspondent at Foreign Policy magazine.

Blinken was asked by ABC News on Thursday night whether he felt the Russian president would recall his forces once Ukraine was conquered.

‘Is it a possibility that Putin goes beyond Ukraine? Sure, it’s a possibility,’ Blinken told host David Muir.

But he stressed that progressing beyond Ukraine into neighboring Poland, Slovakia, Hungary or Romania would mean invading a NATO member country, and would automatically draw in the US, UK, France, Canada and the other nations that form the 30-country alliance.

‘There is something very powerful standing in the way of that, and it’s something we call Article Five,’ said Blinken.

Condemnation came not only from the US and Europe, but from South Korea, Australia and beyond – and many governments readied new sanctions. Even friendly leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban sought to distance themselves from Putin.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he aimed to cut off Russia from the UK’s financial markets as he announced sanctions, freezing the assets of all large Russian banks and planning to bar Russian companies and the Kremlin from raising money on British markets.

‘Now we see him for what he is – a bloodstained aggressor who believes in imperial conquest,’ Johnson said of Putin.

The US sanctions will target Russian banks, oligarchs, state-controlled companies and high-tech sectors, Biden said, but they were designed not to disrupt global energy markets. Russian oil and natural gas exports are vital energy sources for Europe.

Zelenskyy urged the US and West to go further and cut the Russians from the SWIFT system, a key financial network that connects thousands of banks around the world. The White House has been reluctant to immediately cut Russia from SWIFT, worried it could cause enormous economic problems in Europe and elsewhere in the West.

While some nervous Europeans speculated about a possible new world war, the U.S. and its NATO partners have shown no indication they would send troops into Ukraine, fearing a larger conflict. NATO reinforced its members in Eastern Europe as a precaution, and Biden said the US was deploying additional forces to Germany to bolster NATO.

European authorities declared the country’s airspace an active conflict zone.

After weeks of denying plans to invade, Putin launched the operation on a country the size of Texas that has increasingly tilted toward the democratic West and away from Moscow’s sway.

The autocratic leader made clear earlier this week that he sees no reason for Ukraine to exist, raising fears of possible broader conflict in the vast space that the Soviet Union once ruled. Putin denied plans to occupy Ukraine, but his ultimate goals remain hazy.

Ukrainians were urged to shelter in place and not to panic.

‘Until the very last moment, I didn’t believe it would happen. I just pushed away these thoughts,’ said a terrified Anna Dovnya in Kyiv, watching soldiers and police remove shrapnel from an exploded shell. ‘We have lost all faith.’

With social media amplifying a torrent of military claims and counter-claims, it was difficult to determine exactly what was happening on the ground.

Russia and Ukraine made competing claims about damage they had inflicted. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had destroyed scores of Ukrainian air bases, military facilities and drones. It confirmed the loss of one of its Su-25 attack jets, blaming ‘pilot error’, and said an An-26 transport plane had crashed because of technical failure, killing the entire crew. It did not say how many were aboard.

Russia said it was not targeting cities, but journalists saw destruction in many civilian areas.

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