Hungary will not block sanctions against Russia, including on SWIFT, foreign minister says
From CNN's Chris Liakos and Sharon Braithwaite
Hungary will not block any sanctions against Russia, including on the global SWIFT payment system, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said Saturday in a statement.
Szijjártó responded to recent claims that Hungary would oppose sanctions against the Kremlin over the invasion of Ukraine.
"I am saddened and shocked to see that some representatives of international politics and the international press dare to fabricate fake news and lies," Szijjártó said in the statement, confirming that Hungary "has never blocked any sanctions proposal."
The European Union announced new sanctions against Russia on Friday.
The bloc has adopted the "strongest" package of sanctions ever against Russia, following the invasion of Ukraine, EU Commission deputy chief spokeswoman Dana Spinant tweeted Saturday.
8:38 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022
Debunking fake videos of the war in Ukraine
From CNN's Tara Subramaniam
The way the conflict in Ukraine has unfolded across social media has made it hard for many people to figure out what's real and what's not. Cell phone videos from locals have circulated on Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, but some of the videos alleging to depict the situation on the ground in Ukraine have turned out to be fake.
Many showcase old footage from elsewhere instead, while some even used scenes from video games.
To combat misinformation around Ukraine, Facebook set up a "Special Operations Center" Thursday afternoon to respond to war-related activity and "remove content that violates our Community Standards faster," while Twitter shared tips for using its platform in conflict zones.
Texas A&M University professor Jennifer Mercieca, whose research focuses on propaganda and political rhetoric, said it's not a surprise that a conflict involving Russia includes what she calls "information warfare."
While information warfare is not new, according to Mercieca, the extent to which misinformation currently is being spread is a consequence of the sheer volume of information about the situation in Ukraine available across different forms of media.
100,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived since start of Russian invasion, says Polish Border Guard
From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen
Around 100,000 people have entered Poland from Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion of the country on Thursday, a Polish border guard said Saturday.
“Yesterday was a record day, Border Guard officers cleared over 47,000 people in the direction to Poland. We will help everyone, we will not leave anyone without help. Once again, all Polish services are working together,” a tweet attributed to the guard’s Commander-in-Chief read.
The United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, told CNN Saturday that more than 120,000 people had left Ukraine while 850,000 were internally displaced. She added up to 4 million Ukrainians could leave if the situation worsened.
The Head of the Prime Minister's Office, Michał Dworczyk, said a train had been converted to aid people fleeing the war, and tweeted a photo of himself at the station.
The train will run from the station in Przemysl, Poland to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
“We are next to the train which will perform 2 functions. 5 wagons were converted for sanitary transport and possible injured. 4 wagons are filled with humanitarian aid, which will be transferred to the Lviv region today,” Dworczyk said.
8:35 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls for end to Russian involvement in SWIFT
From CNN's Allegra Goodwin in London
British prime minister Boris Johnson has called for an end to Russia’s involvement in SWIFT, the secure messaging service that facilitates payments among 11,000 financial institutions in 200 countries, in an act of support towards Ukraine.
“We are calling for an end to Russian involvement in SWIFT,” said a UK government update on Ukraine which Johnson tweeted Saturday.
The European Union is divided over Ukraine’s appeal for Russia to be banned from the service.
In a video message to Ukrainians earlier on Saturday, the country's President Volodymyr Zelensky said the majority of EU members now supported imposing the new sanction, but called on Germany and Hungary to do the same.
Ukraine appealed for Russia to be removed from SWIFT after President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion on Thursday. The call from Kyiv was backed by Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and the United Kingdom but other European countries resisted.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has come under fire for not supporting the move, which the government said would require careful preparation.
Removing Russia from SWIFT would make it much harder for financial institutions to send money in or out of the country, delivering a sudden shock to Russian companies and their foreign customers — especially buyers of oil and gas exports denominated in US dollars.
However, senior Russian lawmakers have responded by saying that shipments of oil, gas and metals to Europe would stop if that happened.
Blinken authorizes $350 million more in US military assistance to Ukraine
From CNN's Jamie Crawford
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday he has authorized $350 million in new US military assistance to Ukraine.
“Today, as Ukraine fights with courage and pride against Russia’s brutal and unprovoked assault, I have authorized, pursuant to a delegation by the President, an unprecedented third Presidential Drawdown of up to $350 million for immediate support to Ukraine’s defense,” Blinken said in a written statement.
“This package will include further lethal defensive assistance to help Ukraine address the armored, airborne, and other threats it is now facing. It is another clear signal that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereign, courageous, and proud nation,” he added.
As CNN has reported, President Joe Biden instructed Blinken to release up to $350 million in immediate support to Ukraine's defense, according to a memo released by the White House Friday.
This is the third drawdown of money. Previous drawdowns have been for $60 million and $250 million, putting the total over the last year at more than a billion dollars, according to an administration official.
8:55 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022
Russia defense ministry denies its missile struck Kyiv residential building, state news agencies say
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Nathan Hodge in Moscow
The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied reports that one of its missiles struck a residential building in Kyiv, claiming the damage was caused by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft projectile, Russian state news agencies reported on Saturday, citing a source at the ministry.
“The information disseminated on social networks about a Russian missile attack on a residential building on Lobanovsky Avenue in Kyiv is not true,” the defense ministry source said, according to TASS and RIA Novosti. “The nature of the damage to the house indicates that an anti-aircraft missile hit it. This is clearly visible on the video.”
"Obviously, in the course of repelling a night rocket attack on military infrastructure … of Ukraine, a failure occurred in the missile guidance system of the Ukrainian Buk-M1 medium-range air defense system, and the missile hit the corner of a residential building,” the source added, according to TASS and RIA Novosti.
CNN has reached out independently to the Russian Ministry of Defense for a response but has yet to hear back.
Images and video from the scene showed a large impact some 10 floors up in the building, with the cause of the strike unclear and the extent of casualties unknown. Several apartment units were blown out entirely, their outer walls and windows missing, leaving a gaping hole visible in the building's side, as residents were evacuated.
Here's the location of the building:
More context: Social media videos, photos and satellite images analyzed and geolocated by CNN confirm that on several occasions densely populated areas have been hit by Russian forces. CNN is reaching out to the Russian government for comment.
Amnesty International, in a press release on Friday, accused Russian forces of "indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and strikes on protected objects such as hospitals," citing three examples, including an attack on Thursday near a hospital building in Vuhledar, in the eastern Donetsk region. That attack killed four civilians and wounded ten more, Amnesty reported.
Russia bans flights from Bulgarian, Polish and Czech carriers
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow
The Russian Civil Aviation authority has closed off its airspace to flights from carriers or aircraft registered in Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic.
“This decision was made in accordance with the norms of international law as a response to the ban on all civil flights of aircraft operated by Russian air carriers and/or registered in Russia to/from the territory of these states,” the Russian Civil Aviation authority said in a statement on Saturday.
On Friday, Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport, Rosaviatsia, imposed a ban on UK registered flights or flights of aircraft owned, leased or operated by a person associated with the UK from transiting through the country’s airspace. The ban was in response to the UK prohibiting civilian Russian aircraft from its airspace.
Travel affected: Meanwhile, Ukraine's airspace is currently closed in the wake of the Russian invasion. Its neighbor Moldova has also closed its airspace, as has part of Belarus. Furthermore, the US government's Federal Aviation Administration has told US pilots to avoid "the entire country of Ukraine, the entire country of Belarus and a western portion of Russia."
Japanese-owned cargo ship hit by a missile off Ukrainian coast
From CNN’s Lizzy Yee and Emi Jozuka
A Japanese-owned cargo ship was hit by a missile off the coast of Ukraine in the Black Sea on Friday, lightly injuring one crew member, an official from a Japanese marine transportation firm said Saturday.
The official added that there were 20 crew members on board.
According to a statement released on the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense's Facebook page on Saturday, preliminary reports indicate the missile was fired by Russian forces and hit the stern of "Namura Queen" cargo ship on Friday.
“The tugboat 'P&O STAR' has come to the rescue. The situation is under control,” the post said. It added that the ship was sailing under the Panamanian flag, and heading to Pivdennyy port.
Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported Saturday that the "Namura Queen" crew are all safe. According to a website that tracks ships' positions, the vessel is currently en route to Istanbul, Turkey.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry also reported that a different ship was shelled by a Russian warship on Friday. The vessel, "Millenial Spirit," was sailing under the Moldovan flag, and carried 600 tons of fuel oil and diesel onboard when it was struck. Two crew members were seriously injured as a result, according to the ministry.
7:55 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022
If you're just waking up on Saturday, here's what you need to know
The streets of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv became a battle zone on Saturday, but President Volodymyr Zelensky told citizens in a video message that the country had "withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks," with Kyiv still under Ukrainian control.
If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know:
Presidential appeal: Zelensky also appealed to Ukrainians to resist the invasion, and called for those living abroad to return and defend the country. He also welcomed volunteers from abroad, saying, "we will give you weapons."
Fighting on the streets: Early Saturday, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry warned active fighting was taking place and urged residents to stay calm, hide indoors, take cover and head to the nearest shelter if they hear air raid sirens. The mayor of Kyiv has imposed an overnight curfew from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., until February 28.
Apartment building struck: A residential building was hit by a missile or rocket early Saturday as many in the city slept, with images and video showing extensive damage to apartments, with outer walls torn away completely. The cause of the strike and extent of casualties is not yet known.
Ukrainians flee: More than 120,000 Ukrainians have already left while 850,000 are internally displaced, according to the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees. She said up to 4 million Ukrainians could flee if the situation continued to deteriorate, and that there were queues at a number of border crossings,
International step-up: The US offered to evacuate President Zelensky from Kyiv, but he refused saying, "I need ammunition, not a ride." He also called on Hungary and Germany to support blocking Russia from the international payments system SWIFT, a strong sanction he said was now supported by most EU states.
Strategic link shelled: The sound of shelling impacts hit around the city of Kherson, Ukraine, north of the Crimean peninsula, on Saturday morning. The bridge connecting Russian-held areas to Ukraine was later blanketed in smoke, through which a CNN team saw apparent armored vehicles moving toward Ukraine.