KYIV, Ukraine (NewsNation Now) — The U.S., European Union and United Kingdom on Saturday agreed to block “selected” Russian banks from the SWIFT global financial messaging system and to impose ”restrictive measures” on its central bank in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.
The measures were announced jointly as part of a new round of financial sanctions meant to impose a severe cost on Russia for the invasion as Kyiv residents brace for another night of sheltering underground.
Ukrainian officials reported some success in fending off assaults, but fighting persisted near the capital on Saturday. Fighting on the city’s outskirts suggested that small Russian units were trying to clear a path for the main forces.
“The real fighting for Kyiv is ongoing,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message. “We will win.”
Although Russia claims its attacks on Ukraine are only aimed at military targets, bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods have been hit since the invasion began Thursday with air and missile strikes.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko imposed an intensified curfew on Kyiv, extending its hours to go from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m.
“All civilians on the street during the curfew will be considered members of the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups,” he said on the Telegram app.
In a video recorded on a downtown Kyiv street, Zelenskyy said he remained in the city and that the Ukrainian military would not be putting down arms.
“We aren’t going to lay down weapons. We will protect the country,” the Ukrainian president said. “Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that it’s our land, our country, our children.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent weeks denying he would invade Ukraine, all while building up almost 200,000 troops along the countries’ borders. His actions triggered new international efforts to end the invasion, including direct sanctions on Putin.
Ukraine’s health minister reported Saturday that 198 people, including three children, have been killed and more than 1,000 others have been wounded since the Russian offensive.
On Saturday, the U.S. State Department approved U.S. President Joe Biden’s authorization of $350 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total security aid approved for the country to $1 billion over the past year. This $350 million package includes anti-armor, small arms and various munitions, body armor and related equipment, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said. A senior defense official said it also consists of Javelin anti-tank weapons, which will be delivered to Ukraine in phases and as soon as possible.
Shifting significantly from its usual policy of not exporting deadly weapons to conflict zones, the German government confirmed it approved shipping 400 anti-tank weapons, 14 armored vehicles and up to 10,000 tons of fuel to Ukraine.
Calling Russia’s invasion a “shameless attack,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Ukraine must be able to defend itself.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point. It threatens our entire post-war order,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.
The U.S. government urged Zelenskyy early Saturday to evacuate Kyiv but he turned down the offer, according to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of the conversation. The official quoted the president as saying that “the fight is here” and that he needed anti-tank ammunition but “not a ride.”
Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukrainian forces controlled the situation when the small Russian units tried to infiltrate Kyiv.
It was unclear in the fog of war how much of Ukraine was still under Ukrainian control and how much Russian forces have seized. The pace of the Russian invasion has been slower than anticipated. While that could be seen as a moral victory for the Ukrainian fighters, Ret. U.S. Lt. Gen. William Boykin is worried about what a frustrated Putin may do.
“Don’t forget that they still have tactical nuclear weapons, and I’m not so sure that if they got bogged down, that that would ultimately be a Rubicon that they’d be willing to cross just to be able to get their troops out,” Boykin said on “On Balance with Leland Vittert.”
Russia, as expected, vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that it stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw troops immediately.
NATO, meanwhile, decided to send parts of the alliance’s response force, involving land, sea and air power, to help protect member nations in the east for the first time.
U.N. officials reported 25 civilian deaths, mostly from shelling and airstrikes.
The European Union’s top diplomat says he’s calling an urgent meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers on Sunday to weigh yet more measures against Russia as it wages its military campaign in Ukraine.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted Saturday that “I am convening a virtual meeting of EU foreign ministers tomorrow at 18.00 (Central European Time, 1700 GMT) to adopt further measures in support of Ukraine, against aggression by Russia.”
Borrell says he will propose to the ministers that they endorse “a package of emergency assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, to support them in their heroic fight.”
It will be the third time the ministers have met in a week. Previously they have endorsed two packages of sanctions; one raft targeting Russians involved in the recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, and another hitting Russia’s economy and freezing the assets of the president and foreign minister.
The United Nations said more than 150,000 Ukrainians had fled for Poland, Moldova and other neighboring countries and warned the number could grow to 4 million if fighting escalates.
Hungary and Poland opened their borders to Ukrainians regardless of if they had travel documents. Some walked for 15 miles to reach the border.
“They didn’t have food, no tea, they were standing in the middle of a field, on the road, kids were freezing,” said Iryna Wiklenko as she waited on the Polish side for her grandchildren and her daughter-in-law to make it across.
Refugees arriving in the Hungarian border town of Zahony said men between 18 and 60 were not being allowed to leave Ukraine.