Russia-Ukraine live updates: Ukraine, Russia at Belarus border for talks


(NEW YORK) — Russia’s military launched a long-feared invasion of Ukraine early Thursday, attacking its ex-Soviet neighbor from multiple directions despite warnings of dire consequences from the United States and the international community.

Thursday’s attacks followed weeks of escalating tensions in the region. In a fiery, hourlong speech on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognizing the independence of two Russia-backed separatist areas in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region: the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for stoking the crisis and reiterated its demands to NATO that Ukraine pledges to never join the transatlantic defense alliance.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 28, 9:01 am
US banning Russia’s central bank from accessing reserves in US

Senior administration officials on Monday provided more specifics on the sanctions against Russia announced over the weekend and emphasized the drastic nature of these steps, saying the “actions represent the most significant actions the U.S. Treasury has taken against an economy of this size, and assets of this size,” noting the Russian central bank is multiple times larger than Iran’s or Venezuela’s.

The U.S. has put into effect sanctions on Russia’s central bank that keep Moscow from accessing any of their more than $600 billion in reserves in the U.S., or in U.S. dollars in foreign countries. The sanctions also target Russia’s National Wealth Fund and the Ministry of Finance.

Officials said it was clear from the beginning of the invasion that Russian President Vladimir Putin was planning to use central bank assets to mitigate any sanctions.

“Today’s announcement that prohibit transactions with the Central Bank of Russia in the national wealth fund will significantly hinder their ability to do that, and inhibit their access to hundreds of billions of dollars in assets from our actions alone, they will not be able to access assets that are either in United States or in US dollars,” officials said.

“What we’ve done today is not only preventing them from using those dollars in the United States, but preventing them from being able to use those dollars in other places like Europe or Japan to defend their currency and prop up their institutions. And our goal was to make sure that not only would they not have access to dollars, but also not have access to other currencies,” officials said.

“Our strategy — to put it simply — is to make sure that the Russian economy goes backwards, as long as President Putin decides to go forward with his invasion of Ukraine,” a senior administration official said.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky, Justin Gomez

Feb 28, 8:39 am
White House: ‘No reason to change’ US alert levels

After Russian President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on a state of heightened alert this weekend, a White House official confirms the U.S. has not changed its own alert level.

“We are assessing President Putin’s directive and at this time see no reason to change our own alert levels,” a White House official confirmed to ABC News.

“We think provocative rhetoric regarding nuclear weapons is dangerous, adds to the risk of miscalculation, should be avoided, and we will not indulge in it,” the official added.

The official also noted that, as recently as June, when President Joe Biden met Putin face-to-face in Geneva, the two leaders affirmed nuclear war is tantamount to mutually assured destruction.

The leaders said in a joint statement in June, “Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Feb 28, 8:21 am
US shutters embassy in Belarus, draws down embassy in Russia

The U.S. is suspending operations at the embassy in Belarus, where just half a dozen U.S. diplomats had been based, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced.

The U.S. is also drawing down its embassy in Moscow, authorizing the departure of non-emergency staff and diplomats’ families, Blinken said in a statement.

He didn’t cite any specific threat but said the department took these steps “due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine.”

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Feb 28, 6:47 am
Russia hikes key rate to 20% as ruble tumbles

Russia’s central bank on Monday raised its key interest rate to 20% from 9.5% in an apparent effort to slow the fallout from severe international sanctions.

The rate hike came as the Russian ruble tumbled, trading down as much as 30% against the U.S. dollar on Monday, according to Bloomberg. The currency traded about 17% lower midday in Moscow.

The Russian stock market reportedly closed for the day.

-ABC News’ Zunaira Zaki

Feb 28, 6:23 am
500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine, UN says

More than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Thursday, the U.N. Refugee Agency said on Monday.

More than half have crossed the border into Poland, the agency said. Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, had said on Sunday that 368,000 people had fled to neighboring countries.

-ABC News’ Zoe Magee

Feb 28, 5:00 am
Ukraine delegation arrives for talks with Russia

The Ukrainian delegation sent for talks with Russia arrived Monday morning at the Belarus-Ukraine border, where the meeting will be held.

Ukraine has said the key issue for the talks is an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Russia has signalled it wants to discuss Ukraine adopting “neutral status.”

The head of Russia’s delegation has said the two sides will meet within about an hour. They are meeting on the Pripyat River, north of Chernobyl.

The Ukrainian delegation includes the Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov, the head of Zelenskyy’s parliamentary party, as well as advisors to the president and MPs.

Russia’s delegation includes officials from the Foreign and Defense ministries, and the presidential administration.

The talks were agreed to on Sunday in a call between Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Belarus’ leader Alexander Lukashenko.

Fighting continued throughout the night, as Russia attempted to advance and bombarded Ukrainian forces.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell and Julia Drozd

Feb 28, 3:29 am
Russian advance slows north of Kyiv, UK military says

The U.K. Ministry of Defence said on Monday that the advance of Russian ground forces had been slowed by Ukraine’s defense of an airport in Hostomel, about 19 miles north of Kyiv.

“Logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance,” the ministry said on Twitter.

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