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Russian forces closing in on Kyiv as explosions rock Ukrainian capital

Zelensky says 137 killed, orders general mobilization; Biden: Russia is ‘aggressor’ and will pay a ‘severe’ price for invading Ukraine; Putin claims ‘no other way’ but to attack

  • Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv  on February 24, 2022 (ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)
    Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv on February 24, 2022 (ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)
  • People are seen outside the cordoned off area around the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (Sergei Supinsky / AFP)
    People are seen outside the cordoned off area around the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (Sergei Supinsky / AFP)
  • Ukrainian soldiers ride in a military vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
    Ukrainian soldiers ride in a military vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
  • A man sits outside his destroyed building after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv on February 24, 2022, as Russian armed forces invade Ukraine from several directions (Aris Messinis / AFP)
    A man sits outside his destroyed building after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv on February 24, 2022, as Russian armed forces invade Ukraine from several directions (Aris Messinis / AFP)
  • Girls hold their mobile phone as they take refuge in a metro station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022 (Daniel LEAL / AFP)
    Girls hold their mobile phone as they take refuge in a metro station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022 (Daniel LEAL / AFP)
  • People react standing behind the cordoned off area around the remains of a shell in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)
    People react standing behind the cordoned off area around the remains of a shell in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)
  • A man walks in a street as black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv on February 24, 2022 (Aris Messinis / AFP)
    A man walks in a street as black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv on February 24, 2022 (Aris Messinis / AFP)
  • People, some carrying bags and suitcases, walk at a metro station in Kyiv early on February 24, 2022 (Daniel LEAL / AFP)
    People, some carrying bags and suitcases, walk at a metro station in Kyiv early on February 24, 2022 (Daniel LEAL / AFP)
  • People hug as a woman with a suitcase uses her smartphone outside a metro station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022 (Daniel LEAL / AFP)
    People hug as a woman with a suitcase uses her smartphone outside a metro station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022 (Daniel LEAL / AFP)
  • People queue to a gas station in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)
    People queue to a gas station in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)
  • Police and security personnel inspect the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (Sergei Supinsky / AFP)
    Police and security personnel inspect the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (Sergei Supinsky / AFP)
  • Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
    Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses officer cadets on February 24, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses officer cadets on February 24, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
  • US President Joe Biden addresses the nation about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Twitter screenshot)
    US President Joe Biden addresses the nation about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Twitter screenshot)
  • A satellite photo provided by ImageSat International (ISI) shows Russian troops deployed in the city of Belgorod, on February 24, 2022. (Courtesy of ISI)
    A satellite photo provided by ImageSat International (ISI) shows Russian troops deployed in the city of Belgorod, on February 24, 2022. (Courtesy of ISI)

The Times of Israel is liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.

Ukraine FM says assault on Kyiv worst since WWII

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymitro Kuleba slams what he calls “horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv.”

He calls the violence the worst the city has seen since a Nazi onslaught in 1941.

Missile slams into Kyiv apartment building, mayor says

Ukraine’s army says that Russia fired on civilian areas of Kyiv but that Ukraine’s air defense systems repelled “two deadly gifts”, according to a post on its verified Facebook page.

Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko says three people were injured with one in critical condition after “missile debris” hit a residential building.

He tweets a photo showing a building with part of its wall torn down and firefighters present at the scene.

US Defense Secretary: Russian mechanized forces 20 miles from Kyiv

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tells 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.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kyiv “could well be under siege” in what US officials believe is a brazen attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to dismantle the government and replace it with his own regime.

Blinken says 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.”

Macron says useful to ‘leave path open’ for dialogue with Putin

BRUSSELS, Belgium — French President Emmanuel Macron says it was useful to keep alive the chance of dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin after he launched an invasion of Ukraine.

Macron says after a summit of EU leaders that “while condemning, while sanctioning” it remained useful “to leave this path open so that the day when the conditions can be fulfilled, we can obtain a cessation of hostilities.”

UN gives $20 million to scale up Ukraine humanitarian aid

The United Nations announces it is immediately allocating $20 million to scale up UN humanitarian operations in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres makes the announcement saying the UN and its humanitarian partners “are committed to staying and delivering, to support people in Ukraine in their time of need … regardless of who or where they are.”

“With deaths rising, we are seeing images of fear, anguish and terror in every corner of Ukraine,” the UN chief says. “People — everyday innocent people — always pay the highest price.”

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths says the $20 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund will support emergency operations along the contact line in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk and in other areas of the country, and will “help with health care, shelter, food, and water and sanitation to the most vulnerable people affected by the conflict.”

Zelensky says Ukraine ‘left alone’ to fight Russia

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says his country had been left on its own to fight Russia after the Kremlin launched a large-scale invasion that killed over 130 Ukrainians in the first day.

“We have been left alone to defend our state,” Volodymyr Zelensky says in a video address to the nation after midnight.

“Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don’t see anyone. Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of NATO membership? Everyone is afraid,” he adds.

Volodymyr Zelensky gives a video address to the nation after midnight February 25, 2022, a day after Russia invaded (Screencapture/Twitter)

The president adds that he and his family remained in Ukraine, despite Russia identifying him as “target number one”.

“They want to destroy Ukraine politically by taking down the head of state,” Zelensky says.

US: Credible reports staff at Chernobyl nuclear plant have been taken hostage

The White House is expressing outrage at “credible reports” from Ukrainian officials that the staff at the shuttered Chernobyl nuclear plant have been taken hostage by Russian troops.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that “we condemn it and we request their release.”

Psaki says the US has no assessment on the state of the plant where radioactivity is still leaking decades after the worst nuclear disaster in history. But she says hostage taking could hamper efforts to maintain the nuclear facility and is “incredibly alarming and greatly concerning.”

An operator’s arm-chair covered with plastic sits in an empty control room of the 3rd reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on April 20, 2018. Among the most worrying developments on an already shocking day, as Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, was warfare at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, where radioactivity is still leaking from history’s worst nuclear disaster 36 years ago.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

Psaki spoke after Alyona Shevtsova, an adviser to the commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces, wrote on Facebook that the staff at the Chernobyl plant had been “taken hostage” when Russian troops seized the facility.

UN Security Council to vote on condemning invasion, Russia will veto

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council will vote Friday on a resolution that would condemn Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine “in the strongest terms.” It also would demand an immediate halt to Russia’s invasion and the withdrawal of all Russian troops.

A senior US official says the Biden administration knows the measure will be vetoed by Russia, but believes it is very important to put the resolution to a vote to underscore Russia’s international isolation.

The official says the council vote will be followed by a resolution voted on quickly in the 193-member UN General Assembly where there are no vetoes.

The final draft resolution, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, would reaffirm the council’s commitment “to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”

The council is scheduled to vote at 3 p.m. EST Friday.

Zelensky warns Russian sabotage groups have entered Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian “sabotage groups” have entered Kyiv, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warns.

In a video address to the nation after midnight, a somber-looking Zelensky says “the enemy’s sabotage groups have entered Kyiv” and urges residents to be vigilant and observe curfew rules.

Ukraine’s president says 137 killed in first day of fighting

KYIV, Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelensky says137 Ukrainians died Thursday after his country came under a large-scale attack from Russian forces.

“Today we have lost 137 of our heroes, our citizens. Military and civilian,” Zelensky says in a video address, adding that another 316 people had been injured.

Zelensky signs decree ordering general mobilization of military, calls up reserves

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signs a decree ordering a general mobilization as his country faces a large-scale invasion by Russian troops.

Conscripts and reservists in all of Ukraine’s regions will be called up, according to the decree published by the Ukrainian presidency, which is to be in effect for 90 days.

Zelensky calls on EU leaders to ‘stand side by side with Ukraine’ to stop Russia

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky calls on the leaders of the European Union, who held an emergency summit on Thursday, to “stand side by side with Ukraine and stop the aggressor.”

In a statement published on his page in the messaging app Telegram, Ukraine’s leader calls for “powerful economic and financial sanctions” on Russia, including cutting off SWIFT and imposing an embargo on oil and gas trade.

“Europe’s fate is being decided in Ukraine: if (Russian President Vladimir) Putin doesn’t get a decent rebuff now, he will move on further,” Zelenskyy said, adding that the EU could also help Ukraine with weapons and ammunition and support a UN peacekeeping operation.

“Our people are dying for the freedom of Ukraine and Europe,” the statement says. “We have waited for a long time at an open door. We asked about NATO membership and didn’t get a response.”

Now Ukraine needs international security guarantees, “a clear European perspective, and swift and concrete action,” Zelenskyy concluded.

Amid Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lapid speaks with Blinken

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I expressed concern for the safety of Israelis trying to leave Ukraine and updated the secretary of state on Israel’s [planned] humanitarian aid to Ukraine,” Lapid writes on Twitter.

“The Secretary of State updated me on the steps the United States is taking at this stage and we have agreed to continue talking in the coming days,” he adds.

US to send 7,000 more troops to Germany to ‘deter Russian aggression’

WASHINGTON — The United States will deploy 7,000 more troops to Europe, to be based in Germany, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon announces today.

“They will deploy to Germany to reassure NATO Allies, deter Russian aggression and be prepared to support a range of requirements in the region,” a Pentagon official says, adding that they are expected to depart “in the coming days.”

UN watchdog urges ‘maximum restraint’ at Ukrainian nuclear facilities

In this April 27, 2021 photo, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi in front of a shelter construction which covers the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
In this April 27, 2021 photo, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi in front of a shelter construction which covers the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

VIENNA — The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency says it has been informed by Ukraine that “unidentified armed forces” have taken control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant, adding that there had been “no casualties or destruction at the industrial site.”

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi calls for “maximum restraint” to avoid actions that could put Ukraine’s nuclear facilities at risk.

“In line with its mandate, the IAEA is closely monitoring developments in Ukraine with a special focus on the safety and security of its nuclear power plants and other nuclear-related facilities,” he says in a statement.

Russia to ‘contain’ Israel’s condemnation of Ukraine invasion – report

Russia tells Israel it is going “to contain” Jerusalem’s condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine, and not create tensions or retaliate over it, two officials tell the Walla news site.

One source says Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz updated participants of a meeting of top Israeli officials that “moderate messages from the Russians were received, and that the Russians think there were countries that condemned them much more harshly than Israel.”

Israel had so far been careful in its comments on the conflict and has avoided criticizing Moscow publicly. This is believed to be at least partly due to its need to work with the Russian military presence in neighboring Syria.

In phone call, Iran’s Raisi tells Putin that NATO expansion a ‘serious threat’

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi talk to each other during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, January 19, 2022. (Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi talk to each other during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, January 19, 2022. (Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi tells his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that NATO expansion is a “serious threat,” hours after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine.

“NATO expansion is a serious threat to the stability and security of independent countries in different regions,” Raisi says in a telephone call with Putin, according to the Iranian presidency.

Raisi expressed hope that “what was happening” would benefit “the nations and the region,” a statement adds. It doesn’t elaborate.

US sanctions Belarus over support for Russian invasion

The US announces sanctions of Belarusian banks, along with the country’s defense industry and security officials, over its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Israeli leaders meet to discuss implications of Russian invasion

The Israeli leadership meets to discuss the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and decides to persist in its efforts to get Israeli citizens out of the area and to prepare to send aid to Kyiv.

The meeting is led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and attended by Defense Minister Benny Gantz; Foreign Minister Yair Lapid; the IDF chief of staff; the national security adviser; and other top defense and diplomatic officials.

“During the meeting, they reviewed all of the ramifications of the crisis in different areas (diplomatic, financial and security),” the Prime Minister’s Office says.

The PMO says that after discussing the matter, the political leadership directs the country’s various ministries to focus on continuing to work to remove all Israeli citizens from the country; help the local Jewish population in Ukraine; prepare to help them immigrate; prepare to send humanitarian aid; and continue assessing the potential consequences of the invasion for Israel.

Russia has ‘complete air superiority’ over Ukraine, Western intel official says

Russia has “eliminated” Ukraine’s air defenses and now controls the skies over the country as it pursues its invasion, a senior Western intelligence official says.

“Essentially, the Russians now have complete air superiority over Ukraine,” the official says on condition of anonymity.

Biden: Putin ‘wants to reestablish the former Soviet Union,’ will pay a heavy price

US President Joe Biden addresses the nation about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Twitter screenshot)
US President Joe Biden addresses the nation about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Twitter screenshot)

In an address to the US nation, Biden assails Putin and accuses him of a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Recounting the intelligence his administration has been declassifying and sharing with US allies over the past few weeks, as Russia geared up for war, Biden says, “We’ve been transparent with the world… so that there can be no confusion or cover-up about what Putin was doing.”

He accuses the Russian leader of planning the invasion for a long time and of lying to create pretexts for his actions in Ukraine.

“Putin is the aggressor, Putin chose this war,” Biden says, predicting that the Russian leader “will be a pariah on the international stage.”

“He has much larger ambitions than Ukraine. He wants to reestablish the former Soviet Union. That’s what this is all about,” he charges.

The US president, whose address comes after a meeting earlier today with leaders of the G7 group of nations, warns that powerful sanctions will exact a “severe cost” from Russia’s economy, “both immediately and over time.”

“We’ve been building a coalition of partners representing well over half of the global economy,” he says. “We’re in full and total agreement. We will limit… Russia’s ability to participate in the global economy.”

He says the steps imposed in coordination with Europe will block top Russian banks from the US financial system and “cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports.”

The penalties fall in line with the White House’s insistence that it will look to hit Russia’s financial system and Putin’s inner circle, while also imposing export controls that aim to starve Russia’s industries and military of US semiconductors and other high-tech products.

But Biden, for now, holds off on imposing some of the most severe sanctions, including cutting Russia out of the SWIFT payment system, which allows for the transfers of money from bank to bank around the globe, or Russia’s energy sector.

On the military front, he vows to defend “every inch” of NATO territory, but reaffirms that no American troops will be deployed to Washington’s ally.

“As I made crystal clear, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with a full force of American power,” Biden says.

The president adds, however: “Our forces will not be engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine.”

— With Agencies.

4 protesters arrested for spraying graffiti at Russian embassy

Police say they’ve arrested four people during the protest outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv.

Officers allege that the four were involved in spraying graffiti on the outer wall of the embassy.

“The police will enable freedom of speech and freedom of protest but will not allow violations of the law and of the public order,” the Yarkon police says in a statement.

Graffiti sprayed during a protest outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2022. (Israeli Police)

Ukraine loses control of the Chernobyl nuclear site – presidential adviser

An adviser to Ukrainian president says that Ukraine has lost control over the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant after a fierce battle.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelenskyy, says the condition of the plant’s facilities, a confinement shelter and storage of nuclear waste is unknown.

A nuclear reactor in then-Soviet Ukraine exploded in April 1986, spewing radioactive waste across Europe in the world’s worst nuclear disaster. The exploded reactor has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation leak and the entire plant has been decommissioned.

Podolyak said that after the “absolutely senseless attack of the Russians in this direction, it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe.”

He charges that Russia may mount provocations there and described the situation as “one of the most serious threats to Europe today.”

Israeli satellite images show large Russian military buildup on Ukraine invasion route

Private Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) publishes satellite images of Russian forces deployed in the city of Belgorod, close to the border with Ukraine.

ISI says this is one of Russia’s main routes of invasion of Ukraine, going through the city of Kharkiv.

The photos show helicopters and delivery trucks, as well as a field hospital. ISI says the trucks are resupplying the helicopters before they take off.

A satellite photo provided by ImageSat International (ISI) shows Russian troops deployed in the city of Belgorod, on February 24, 2022. (Courtesy of ISI)
A satellite photo provided by ImageSat International (ISI) shows Russian troops deployed in the city of Belgorod, on February 24, 2022. (Courtesy of ISI)

Biden says G7 agreed on ‘devastating packages of sanctions’ against Russia

US President Biden says that the G7 group has agreed to impose “devastating” economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

“This morning, I met with my G7 counterparts to discuss President Putin’s unjustified attack on Ukraine and we agreed to move forward on devastating packages of sanctions and other economic measures to hold Russia to account. We stand with the brave people of Ukraine,” Biden tweets.

Putin: Russia does not want to undermine global economic system

Putin says his country wants to remain part of the world economy and has no plans to harm it.

“Russia remains part of the world economy,” Putin tells a meeting of big businesses after he ordered troops to invade Ukraine.

“We are not going to damage the world economic system which we are part of,” he says, adding he also does not want Russia to be excluded from the international economic community.

“It seems to me that our partners should understand this and not set themselves the task of pushing us out of this system,” he adds.

UK to ban Russia’s Aeroflot, sanction banks, businesses, oligarchs

Britain is freezing the UK assets of Russian titans in banking and arms manufacturing, sanctioning five more oligarchs and banning Aeroflot from its airspace, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says.

Announcing the sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he tells parliament that Putin “will never be able to cleanse the blood of Ukraine from his hands.”

‘Putin is the new Hitler’: Israelis protest invasion outside Russian embassy

Despite the pouring rain, hundreds of Israelis mass outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv in protest of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many of them bearing placards, including “Putin is the new Hitler” and “Stop Putin, stop war.”

Sheltered under giant Ukrainian flags and exposed to the elements alike, they’re shouting slogans in Russian, Ukrainian, and Hebrew, directed both at Putin and recalling past Ukrainian struggles for independence.

“Putin is a son of a bitch” and “no war” alternate between the crowd and passing cars, whose drivers stop to honk and shout their support.

“Honor to the heroes, honor to Ukraine,” they chant as lighting rips through the air.

According to Channel 13 news, many of the protesters have Ukrainian roots and even family in the country.

Alongside their expressions of anger at the Russian campaign, they are also venting their disappointment over Israel’s cautious response.

Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 24, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Putin says ‘no other way’ to defend Russia other than invade Ukraine

Demonstrators hold a placard reading 'Choke Putin' in front of the Chancellery in Berlin as they protest, on February 24, 2022, against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (John Macdougall/AFP)
Demonstrators hold a placard reading 'Choke Putin' in front of the Chancellery in Berlin as they protest, on February 24, 2022, against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (John Macdougall/AFP)

Russian President Putin said that Moscow had no other choice but to invade Ukraine to ensure Russia’s security, speaking hours after his army crossed his ex-Soviet neighbor’s borders.

“What was happening left us with no choice,” the Russian leader says during a televised meeting with business representatives, adding that “we had no other way of proceeding.”

Police declare significant decrease in Arab Israeli crime amid major op

Police tout a decrease of 37% in shooting incidents in Arab Israeli communities so far this year, compared to the same period last year, as it ramps up activity in Arab locales under a major operation dubbed “Safe Route.”

Police say that since the operation began last year, officers have acted against 386 “targets,” major perpetrators of crime in Arab society.

Hundreds of weapons have been seized and 280 suspects have been arrested, 180 of whom have been indicted, police say.

They add that in the past 4 months, officers foiled 25 planned murders by criminal organizations and gangs. Eleven indictments charging suspects with attempted murder have been filed during the same period, police say.

The operation began as Arab communities saw a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly, but not exclusively, by organized crime.

Red Cross fears ‘massive casualty numbers’ in Ukraine

The Red Cross chief voices alarm at the escalating conflict in Ukraine, with the risk of death and destruction at a scale that is “frightening to contemplate.”

“I fear increased suffering, with the potential of massive casualty numbers and extensive destruction of civilian objects like water and electricity plants,” Peter Maurer, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, says in a statement.

He warns as well of “mass displacement, trauma, family separation, and missing persons.”

US official predicts large-scale invasion, says Russia fired more than 100 missiles in first hours of attack

A senior US defense official says today’s attack by Russia appears to be the first phase in what will likely be a multiple-phased, large-scale invasion.

The official says it began around 9:30 p.m. US eastern time, with land- and sea-based missile launches. The official says that roughly more than 100 missiles, primarily short-range ballistic missiles, but also medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and sea-launched missiles, were launched in the first few hours of the attack.

The official says the Russians are moving on three axes: From Crimea to Kherson, from Belarus toward Kyiv, and from the northeast to Kharkiv.

The official, who speaks on condition of anonymity, said it’s not clear how many Russian troops are in Ukraine now, and the main targets of the air assault have been barracks, ammunition warehouses, and 10 airfields. The official says Russian ground forces began to move into Ukraine from Belarus around 5 a.m. eastern time.

Ukraine leader says ‘new iron curtain’ cutting off Russia

Ukrainian President Zelensky says Russia’s invasion has severed Moscow from the rest of the international community.

“What do we hear today? It’s not just rocket explosions, combat and the roar of aircraft. This is the sound of a new iron curtain lowering and closing Russia off from the civilized world,” he says in a video address.

Senior US official: Russia seeking to ‘decapitate’ Ukrainian government, install new regime

A senior US defense official says the purpose of Russia’s three-pronged assault is to overrun Kyiv and “decapitate” the Ukrainian government.

“It is our assessment that they have every intention of basically decapitating the government and installing their own method of governance, which would explain these early moves,” the official tells Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Ukraine says Russia trying to seize Chernobyl

Ukrainian President Zelensky says Russian forces are trying to seize the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

The plant was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident when a nuclear reactor exploded in April 1986, spewing radioactive waste across Europe. The plant lies 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the capital of Kyiv.

The exploded reactor has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation leak and the entire plant has been decommissioned.

Zelensky says on Twitter that “our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated.” He adds that “this is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.”

Russia vows ‘tough’ retaliation to EU sanctions

Moscow vows to respond in kind to “unfriendly” European Union sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“In accordance with the principle of reciprocity, which is fundamental to international law, we will take tough retaliatory measures,” the Russian foreign ministry says in a statement.

Biden meets with G7, set to address nation on response to Russia

US President Joe Biden meets with G7 allies to hammer out a raft of new sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine, and will later speak to the American people on a crisis that he has warned will cause “catastrophic loss of life.”

The virtual, closed-door meeting of G7 leaders — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — starts at 9:17 a.m. (1417 GMT), a White House official says.

“President Biden and leaders are discussing their joint response to President Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine,” the official says.

Russia fighting Ukrainian forces at airbase 7 km north of Kyiv

Ukraine’s military chief says Ukrainian troops are fighting the Russian army in the north and the south.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi says a battle is raging near the Hostomel air base 7 kilometers (less than 5 miles) northwest of the capital, Kyiv.

He says that in the south, fighting is going on near Henichesk, Skadovsk and Chaplynka.

Jewish Agency opens hotline for Ukrainian Jews

The Jewish Agency opens hotlines for Israeli relatives of Ukrainian Jews and for those in Ukraine looking for assistance or to immigrate to Israel.

Throughout the rising tensions, the Jewish Agency has not seen a rush of Ukrainian Jews looking to move to the Jewish state.

The hotline is opened together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ). It will operate in Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Russian.

“The Jewish Agency and The Fellowship, in coordination with the relevant government ministries, are on the ground and prepared to address various needs following the escalation in Ukraine,” Yaakov Hagoel, acting chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, says in a statement.

Emergency hotline numbers are as follows:

Calling from Ukraine
Toll Free 0800504603
Local Numbers
0442300478
380936517177
380960979851
0638318336
380504691840

For Relatives in Israel
Toll Free 1800228055 extension 4
02 6367714
02 6461447

Bennett’s decision not to condemn Russia was coordinated with Lapid – official

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses officer cadets on February 24, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses officer cadets on February 24, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

A diplomatic official says Bennett’s decision to avoid mentioning, let alone condemning, Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in his remarks at the IDF Officers Course graduation ceremony was deliberate and coordinated with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Bennett’s notably soft speech was meant to be “complementary” to Lapid’s more bellicose one, the official says, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They have spoken multiple times today and are working together,” the official says.

Russian troops capture Antonov airport outside Kyiv

Russia troops have overtaken the Antonov international airport just outside of Kyiv, a CNN reporter on the ground confirms.

Antonov is a cargo airport.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry says the country’s military has destroyed 74 Ukrainian military facilities, including 11 air bases.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu orders that Ukrainian servicemen be treated “with respect” and those who lay down their weapons be offered safe corridors.

The Russian Defense Ministry also confirms the loss of a Su-25 attack jet due to “pilot error.”

— AP contributed

Germany vows sanctions to ‘dramatically limit’ Russian access to EU, US markets

Western allies will unleash sanctions that will drastically restrict Russia’s access to the European and American markets, Germany’s vice chancellor says, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The “strong sanctions package” will “cut off the Russian economy from industrial progress, will attack and freeze assets and financial holdings, and will dramatically limit access to the European and American markets,” says Robert Habeck.

Bennett says ‘world order changing,’ but doesn’t condemn Russia; calls on Jews to leave

Bennett does not condemn Russia, or even mention the country by name, in remarks on the conflict in Ukraine.

“The world order as we know it is changing,” he says, speaking at a graduation ceremony the IDF officers course at the Bahad 1 base near Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert. “The world is much less stable, and our region too is changing every day.”

“These days teach us that war between armies is not, unfortunately, a feature of the past,” he says, calling Israel “an anchor of strength, stability, security, and hope in a dangerous region.

He repeats the call for Israelis in Ukraine to leave the country. “Leave now. Protect your lives. Our people are waiting to receive you at the border crossings in the western part of the country.

“Every Jew knows we are waiting for him here,” he continues, “that the door to the State of Israel is always open.”

“These as difficult, tragic times,” Bennett says. “Our hearts are with the civilians of eastern Ukraine who were caught up in this situation.”

He pledges that Israel will offer any humanitarian assistance Ukraine asks for.

Demonstrators to rally against invasion outside Russian embassy in Tel Aviv

A demonstration has been called for 6:30 this evening in front of Russia’s Tel Aviv Embassy to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Organized by the Israeli Friends of Ukraine, the “Stop Russian Aggression” protest is expected to draw a crowd in the low hundreds.

“We, Israelis [of] Ukrainian origin, Ukrainians, and friends of Ukraine, cannot stand aside and silently follow how Russia brutally invades the independent sovereign country, advances tanks and arms toward peaceful Ukrainian cities and villages, launches shells into kindergartens and infrastructure, destroys democracy, ruthlessly abolishes human rights and denies the right to existence of more than 40 million Ukrainians,” reads a statement on the Facebook page created by protest organizers.

Israel pledges aid package for Ukrainian Jews

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai attends the Jewish People's Lobby, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai attends the Jewish People's Lobby, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai expresses concern for the fate of Ukraine’s Jews amid the Russian invasion and promises to send assistance as needed.

“I am very concerned about the situation in Ukraine, and especially for the safety of Jewish communities in the area,” Shai says in a statement.

“The State of Israel will always care for Jews in danger, wherever they may be,” he adds.

“The Diaspora Affairs Ministry is preparing an aid package for Ukraine’s Jewish communities, and we are prepared to provide a response in any way we can,” Shai says.

Shai’s office does not immediately elaborate on what the aid package will include or how it will be delivered to the Jewish communities in Ukraine.

Moscow warns Russians against joining antiwar protests

Russian authorities warn antiwar sympathizers from gathering for protests, after Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine.

The Investigative Committee warns Russians in a statement of legal repercussions for joining unsanctioned protests related to “the tense foreign political situation.”

UN refugee chief warns Russian invasion will have ‘devastating consequences’

The head of the UN refugee agency is warning of “devastating consequences” of Russia’s military action in Ukraine and calling on neighboring countries to keep their borders open for people fleeing the fighting.

Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, points to “reports of casualties and people starting to flee their homes to seek safety,” without elaborating.

He says in a statement that UNHCR has stepped up its operations and capacity in Ukraine and its neighboring countries, without providing details.

Bennett set to deliver speech addressing Russian invasion of Ukraine

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during a speech in a few minutes, a spokesman says.

Bennett is scheduled to address IDF cadets finishing their officer training course at the Bahad 1 base next to Mitzpe Ramon at around 3:30 p.m.

Though Israeli officials have issued several circumspect condemnations of the Russian invasion, Bennett has yet to do so.

Macron vows response ‘without weakness’ to Russia’s ‘act of war’

French President Emmanuel Macron warns Russia of an uncompromising response to its attack on Ukraine, which he describes as a turning point in European history.

“We will respond without weakness to this act of war, with calm, determination and unity,” Macron says in an address to the nation, adding that the events are a “turning point in the history of Europe and our country” that will have “deep and lasting consequences for our lives.”

Israelis scrambling to leave Ukraine, diplomats say

Israeli diplomats say that from the early morning, there has been a spike in Israelis reaching out to the temporary consular office in Lviv.

The phone has been ringing nonstop, they say.

Israelis are being instructed to head to the Medyka border crossing with Poland, where diplomats from Israel’s Warsaw embassy are awaiting.

Teen dies after she’s hit by a bus in Eilat

A teenage woman dies shortly after she is hit by a bus in the southern resort city of Eilat.

According to reports, the woman, 18, is hit by the bus while crossing at a crosswalk.

Ukraine military plane with 14 aboard crashes near Kyiv – emergency service

A Ukrainian military plane with 14 people aboard crashes south of Kyiv, the emergencies service says.

The service says it is “still determining how many people died.”

The incident occurs about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Kyiv, amid reports of several locations around the city coming under attack.

NATO vows to defend its entire territory after Russia’s ‘brutal act of war’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, February 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, February 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warns that the military alliance will defend every inch of its territory should Russia attack a member country, as he slams Moscow for launching a brutal act of war on Ukraine.

Speaking after chairing an emergency meeting of NATO envoys, Stoltenberg says the 30-nation security alliance will continue to beef up its defenses on its eastern flank near Ukraine and Russia. He says US President Biden and his NATO counterparts will hold an online summit tomorrow.

“Russia has attacked Ukraine. This is a brutal act of war. Our thoughts are with the brave people of Ukraine,” Stoltenberg tells reporters. “Peace in our continent has been shattered. We now have war in Europe, on a scale and of a type we thought belong to history.”

“NATO is the strongest alliance in history, and make no mistake we will defend every ally against any attack on every inch of NATO territory,” he says at the organization’s Brussels headquarters. “An attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance.”

Russia assails Israel over Golan Heights annexation

Responding to Israel’s cautious condemnations of its aggression in Ukraine, Russia last night assailed Israel in the United Nations over its annexation of the Golan Heights.

Russia is a close ally of Syria, from which Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Six Day War.

Iran urges political solution to Russia-Ukraine conflict, blames NATO

Iran calls for a “political and democratic” solution after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine in a crisis the Islamic Republic accused NATO of provoking.

“We don’t believe that resorting to war is a solution,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweets.

It was “imperative to establish (a) ceasefire” and “find a political and democratic resolution,” he adds.

His post comes after Russia hit military facilities across Ukraine with airstrikes before sending in ground forces.

Amir-Abdollahian reiterates an assertion by Iran that NATO and the United States are to blame for the escalation.

“The Ukraine crisis is rooted in NATO’s provocations,” he adds.

The foreign ministry says Iran is working to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine, which closed its airspace early today.

“We are in contact with both sides and we emphasized that the security of our compatriots is a priority for us,” its spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tells state TV.

About 4,000 Iranians live in Ukraine, according to the latest foreign ministry figures.

The Iranian embassy in Kyiv has asked all Iranians in the country to leave in “any way possible.”

“If the conditions for leaving Ukraine are not met, we urge people to settle in safe havens and shelters provided by city and provincial authorities,” it says in a statement.

UK’s PM says Russia faces ‘massive’ new sanctions from West

A demonstrator wearing a face mask has made up her face in the colors of Ukraine during protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022 in Vienna, Austria. (ALEX HALADA / AFP)
A demonstrator wearing a face mask has made up her face in the colors of Ukraine during protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022 in Vienna, Austria. (ALEX HALADA / AFP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Western allies are readying a “massive” package of sanctions against Russia, and tells the people of Ukraine: “We cannot and will not just look away.”

In a televised address to the nation, Johnson also refers to Putin as a “dictator” who will never “subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians.”

‘There’s huge panic,’ says leader in Odessa Jewish community

A senior official from the Tikva organization in Odessa, Ukraine, which educates Jews of all ages and is currently caring for 300 orphan children, tells The Times of Israel that “There’s huge panic. We’ve been taking calls since 4 a.m.

“A lot of elderly people are worried they won’t have enough to eat. People are asking us what to do,” says the official, who asks to remain anonymous.

“At this stage we’re telling the community to stay at home. From time to time there are explosions on the streets and we don’t know whether it’s safe to go out,” he says.

“The exits from the city are already jammed with traffic as people try to flee. We are responsible for 300 children and a nucleus of 100 families.”

Eighteen killed in attack near Ukraine’s Odessa

Eighteen people are killed in an airstrike on a military base near Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odessa, the local administration says.

“Eighteen died — eight men and 10 women. At the moment, we are still digging through the rubble,” the Odessa regional administration says in a statement.

Ukraine’s Zelensky says Russia acting like ‘Nazi Germany’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2022.  (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia is acting like “Nazi Germany.”

“Russia attacked Ukraine in a cowardly and suicidal way like Nazi Germany did during World War II,” the Ukrainian president says during a briefing broadcast on Facebook. He also calls on Russians to “go out” in the streets to “protest against this war.”

Kyiv Chabad rabbi opens up synagogue to dozens seeking shelter

Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch and his wife, Inna, Chabad emissaries to Kyiv, Ukraine. (Courtesy)
Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch and his wife, Inna, Chabad emissaries to Kyiv, Ukraine. (Courtesy)

A top rabbi in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv says dozens of people are sheltering in his synagogue, where he and his wife stockpiled tons of food, fuel and mattresses ahead of the Russian invasion this morning.

Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch and his wife Inna say hundreds of Jews still remain in Kyiv, mostly those who lacked the means to escape the city before the attacks started early this morning. Those who did not leave before 6:30 a.m. are now stuck inside the city as the roads around it have become completely clogged with civilians trying to flee the fighting, they say.

The Markovitches, who have served as Chabad emissaries in the city for more than two decades, tell journalists in Israel that their immediate concern as of this afternoon is security for their synagogue, the Kyiv Jewish Center, speaking in a videoconference organized by the MediaCentral organization.

“Our urgent need now is for a serious armed security company. We are afraid of looting and riots that may arise on the Ukrainian side. We saw that in 2014,” Jonathan Markovitch says, referring to the revolution that year that ousted the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

The couple says they are somewhat concerned about both general rioting as well as explicitly antisemitic attacks on the synagogue, though Jonathan Markovitch stresses that — despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments about “denazifying” Ukraine — they had never experienced significant antisemitism in the country and that incidents that had taken place were dealt with by the country’s law enforcement.

“There is a Jewish president,” he adds.

According to Inna, the couple stockpiled five to six tons of food, along with water, fuel and 50 mattresses in the basement of the synagogue and a few dozen people had already taken refuge there.

“There’s no bomb shelter here, but at least we can be together,” her husband says.

Amid coalition crisis, Labor’s Michaeli slams Gantz

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Transportation Minister and Labor party head Merav Michaeli lobs harsh criticism at Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his Blue and White party after it launched a boycott of voting amid a coalition dispute.

“It’s a party slate of just one man,” Michaeli says of Blue and White at a conference of Labor party members. “Everything begins and ends with what he wants.”

EU envoy to Israel convenes local ambassadors to support Ukraine

A meeting of all EU envoys in Israel in support of Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk on February 24, 2022. (Courtesy)
A meeting of all EU envoys in Israel in support of Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk on February 24, 2022. (Courtesy)

Dimiter Tzantchev, the European Union envoy to Israel, calls a meeting of the ambassadors of all 26 EU states in Israel with Ukraine’s ambassador, Yevgen Korniychuk.

Meanwhile, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell says in a statement that “the EU condemns in the strongest possible terms the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”

“We demand President Putin to cease military operations immediately and withdraw all forces from the entire territory of Ukraine.”

UK summons Russian envoy, says ‘severe sanctions’ coming

Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks at a press conference on the final day of the G7 foreign ministers summit in Liverpool, north-west England on December 12, 2021. (Jon Super / POOL / AFP)
Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks at a press conference on the final day of the G7 foreign ministers summit in Liverpool, north-west England on December 12, 2021. (Jon Super / POOL / AFP)

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss summons Russian ambassador Andrei Kelin to “explain Russia’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”

“We will be imposing severe sanctions and rallying countries in support of Ukraine,” she adds on Twitter.

Deputy minister: Israel must condemn Russia despite concern over Syria coordination

Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Yair Golan, a legislator with the dovish Meretz party, poses during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2022. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)
Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Yair Golan, a legislator with the dovish Meretz party, poses during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2022. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan says that Israel needs to maintain careful relations with Russia, but must still condemn its invasion of Ukraine.

“There is a concern of ruining ties and harming the coordination with Russia when it comes to Syria,” Golan tells the Kan public radio. “But at this point of its attack on Ukraine, we must condemn it strongly.”

Moldova condemns Russia, calls for state of emergency and shuts its airspace

Moldova's President Maia Sandu poses prior to a bilateral meeting with European Council President Charles Michel on the sidelines of an Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool Photo via AP)
Moldova's President Maia Sandu poses prior to a bilateral meeting with European Council President Charles Michel on the sidelines of an Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool Photo via AP)

Moldova’s president says the country’s Supreme Security Council has decided to ask parliament to introduce a state of emergency following Russia’s attack on neighboring Ukraine.

President Maia Sandu says that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a “flagrant violation of international norms.”

Sandu urges Moldovan citizens in Ukraine to return home. Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, has a population of around 3.5 million and is not a NATO member.

There are now concerns in Moldova that the neighboring conflict could trigger an influx of refugees. Sandu says that “at the border crossing points with Ukraine there is an increase in traffic flow.”

She adds that “we will help people who need our support. At this moment, we are ready to accommodate tens of thousands of people.”

Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu writes on Telegram that “given the situation in the region, the Supreme Security Council has recommended that Moldova’s airspace be closed.”

He adds that airspace will be closed from 12 p.m. (1000 GMT) and “all flights will be redirected to other airports.”

Lapid condemns ‘Russian attack on Ukraine,’ tells Israelis to head to land crossings

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid makes a public statement on the Russia-Ukraine crisis at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on February 24, 2022. (Lazar Berman)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid makes a public statement on the Russia-Ukraine crisis at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on February 24, 2022. (Lazar Berman)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemns the “Russian attack on Ukraine” in Israel’s first public criticism of Moscow during this conflict. He adds that Israel has good relations with both Ukraine and Russia.

Going further than a Foreign Ministry statement yesterday, Lapid says “the Russian attack on Ukraine is a serious violation of the international order. Israel condemns that attack, and is ready and prepared to offer humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian citizens.”

Israel did not notify Russia ahead of the condemnation, The Times of Israel has learned.

Lapid again calls for all Israelis to leave Ukraine, warning that there is already movement of refugees toward the west in Ukraine. He emphasizes that Israeli representatives are at the land crossings with the five countries bordering Ukraine to the west.

The border crossings the Foreign Ministry has identified through which Israelis can leave Ukraine by land are Medyka in Poland, Vysne Nemescke in Slovakia, Zahony in Hungary, Siret in Romania, and Palanca in Moldova.

Israel’s assessment is that there will be 5 million refugees from Ukraine, The Times of Israel has learned. Israel’s diplomats have done PCR tests in order to be ready to leave if need be.

While there are no plans for Israeli diplomats to leave Lviv and head to Poland at this time, there is a plan in place if necessary.

Meeting Greek PM, Herzog stops short of criticizing Russia

President Isaac Herzog (left) meets with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens on February 24, 2022. (Tal Schneider)
President Isaac Herzog (left) meets with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens on February 24, 2022. (Tal Schneider)

ATHENS — President Isaac Herzog meets with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens.

Reiterating his earlier statement, Herzog says Israel is worried about the situation in Ukraine, but offers no criticism of Russia.

“We call on the relevant sides to solve the conflict,” he says.

Ukraine says more than 40 of its soldiers, 10 civilians killed

People stand next to fragments of military equipment on the street in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Kharkiv in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko )
People stand next to fragments of military equipment on the street in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Kharkiv in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko )

More than 40 Ukrainian soldiers and around 10 civilians have been killed so far after the Russian invasion of Kyiv, says the Ukrainian presidency in a statement.

Meanwhile the Russian army says that Moscow-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine are advancing and have gained territory.

Military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov tells state television that forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic gained “up to three kilometers” (1.8 miles) in territory and those of the Lugansk People’s Republic “advanced one and a half kilometers.”

He adds that Russia has “high precision weapons” and that Ukrainian civilians have “nothing to fear.”

Ukraine breaks off diplomatic ties with Russia

Illustrative: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrive for a working session at the Elysee Palace, December 9, 2019 in Paris. (Ian Langsdon/Pool via AP)
Illustrative: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrive for a working session at the Elysee Palace, December 9, 2019 in Paris. (Ian Langsdon/Pool via AP)

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky breaks off Kyiv’s diplomatic relations with Moscow in response to Russia’s invasion of its Western-backed neighbor.

“We broke off diplomatic relations with Russia,” Zelensky says in a video message. It marks the first rupture in ties since Russia and Ukraine became independent countries after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

Bennett holding regular consultations on Ukraine throughout the day

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads the cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 13, 2022. (Amit Shabi/POOL via Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads the cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 13, 2022. (Amit Shabi/POOL via Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is holding regular consultations throughout the morning on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, The Times of Israel has learned.

His meetings are taking place alongside the situation assessments going on in the Foreign Ministry as well as the National Security Council in cooperation with the relevant authorities.

Bennett is expected to lead a wider hearing on the issue later this afternoon or evening.

Zelensky appeals for global aid and ‘defense support’ against Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a news conference at The Mariinskyi Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine,, Feb. 23, 2022. (Frem Lukatsky/AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a news conference at The Mariinskyi Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine,, Feb. 23, 2022. (Frem Lukatsky/AP)

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky urges global leaders to provide defense assistance to Ukraine and help protect its airspace from the “aggressor.”

Zelensky says Russian President Vladimir Putin “has unleashed a war with Ukraine and the entire democratic world.” He adds that the Russian leader “wants to destroy our state, everything that we have built.”

He praises the nation’s soldiers, hailing their courage and urges civilians not to panic.

“We are starting the creation of an anti-Putin coalition,” he says. “I have already urged global leaders to slam Putin with all possible sanctions, offer large-scale defense support and close the airspace over Ukraine for the aggressor.”

“Together we must save Ukraine, save the democratic world, and we will do it,” Zelensky says.

Israeli pilots group offers aid to personnel stuck in Israel due to Ukraine crisis

Ukraine airlines (Alec Wilson/ Wikipedia)
Ukraine airlines (Alec Wilson/ Wikipedia)

The Israeli Airline Pilots Association offers to help any Ukrainian or other airline personnel stuck in Israel due to the closing of Ukraine’s skies in light of the Russian invasion.

“We are reaching out to any aircrew, pilots, cabin crew or aircraft engineers that are stuck in Israel to contact us for any assistance needed,” the organization tweets.

Ukraine says it has killed ‘around 50 Russian occupiers’

Firefighters work on a fire on a building after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv on February 24, 2022, as Russian armed forces invade Ukraine from several directions, using rocket systems and helicopters to attack Ukrainian position in the south, the border guard service said. (Aris Messinis / AFP)
Firefighters work on a fire on a building after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv on February 24, 2022, as Russian armed forces invade Ukraine from several directions, using rocket systems and helicopters to attack Ukrainian position in the south, the border guard service said. (Aris Messinis / AFP)

Ukraine’s military command says that government forces have killed “around 50 Russian occupiers” while repulsing an attack on a town on the frontline with Moscow-backed rebels.

AFP could not immediately confirm the death toll.

“Shchastya is under control. 50 Russian occupiers were killed. Another Russian plane was destroyed in the Kramatorsk district. This is the sixth,” the armed forces general staff writes on Twitter.

In Greece, Herzog reiterates Israeli support for ‘territorial integrity’ of Ukraine

President Isaac Herzog meets in Athens with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou on February 24, 2022. (Tal Schneider)
President Isaac Herzog meets in Athens with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou on February 24, 2022. (Tal Schneider)

ATHENS — During a meeting in Athens with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, President Isaac Herzog says he is praying for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.

“This morning I feel great sadness, fearing humanitarian tragedy and God forbid harm to innocent civilians,” says Herzog, “and I pray like many around the world that peace will return in this conflict between Russia and Ukraine.”

Herzog reiterates Israel’s support for “the territorial integrity of Ukraine” and calls for Israeli citizens to “return immediately to Israel right now through land crossings.”

He also vows to “care for the fate of the Jewish community in Ukraine,” and to offer “all possible humanitarian cooperation” to the government of Ukraine.”

Belarus denies its army is taking part in Ukraine invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko watch military drills via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, February 19, 2022. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko watch military drills via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, February 19, 2022. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Belarus’s leader Alexander Lukashenko says his military is not taking part in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as Kyiv says Moscow’s troops are entering the country from Belarusian territory.

“Our armed forces are not taking part in this operation,” says Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has stationed tens of thousands of troops in Belarus.

Ukraine’s border guards say their country is coming under artillery attack along its northern border with Russia and Belarus.

Minsk says Putin called Lukashenko early this morning to inform him that Moscow was launching a military operation on Ukraine. After meeting his army chiefs, Lukashenko says Putin informed him about the “development” of the situation in the call.

He says the Russian leader told him the “aim” of the operation was to “stop the genocide of the people in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics.”

He also says he “personally suggested” to Putin that “a number of the Russian armed forces” stay in the south of the country despite joint military drills coming to an end.

Footage shows Russian troops entering Ukraine

Still from footage of Russian troops in Ukraine via Crimea border crossing, February 24, 2022 (Screen grab/New York Times)
Still from footage of Russian troops in Ukraine via Crimea border crossing, February 24, 2022 (Screen grab/New York Times)

The New York Times publishes footage of Russian troops entering Ukraine.

The newspaper says it has verified the video from security cameras at a Crimea border crossing.

Foreign Ministry in contact with Ukraine Jewish community, no calls for assistance yet

Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it is in contact with Ukraine’s local Jewish population following the invasion of the country by Russian forces this morning.

A spokesperson for the ministry says Israel has yet to receive calls for assistance from the Ukrainian Jewish community.

At least seven people killed in Ukraine, with multiple injured

Police and security personnel inspect the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv, on February 24, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
Police and security personnel inspect the remains of a shell in a street in Kyiv, on February 24, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

Ukraine says at least seven people have been killed in attacks by Russia.

Officials tell the BBC that six were killed in an assault on a military unit in Podilsk, close to Odessa.

Seven are wounded and 19 are missing.

The officials say one person has been killed in the city of Mariupol in the southeast of the country.

Bennett to hold situational assessment on Ukraine

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses the Conference of Presidents meeting in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses the Conference of Presidents meeting in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will hold a situational assessment on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this afternoon.

Foreign Minister Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz will participate in the discussions, the Walla news site reports.

Lapid and Bennett have spoken a number of times over the course of the morning about the situation in Ukraine, working to formulate the message that the foreign minister will convey to the public in a press conference at noon.

EU plans ‘strongest, harshest’ sanctions against Russia

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, on July 10, 2021. (Francois Walschaerts/Pool Photo via AP)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, on July 10, 2021. (Francois Walschaerts/Pool Photo via AP)

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says the bloc is planning the “strongest, the harshest package” of sanctions it has ever considered at an emergency summit, as the Russian military attacks Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says that “the target is the stability in Europe and the whole of the international peace order, and we will hold President (Vladimir) Putin accountable for that.”

“We will present a package of massive and targeted sanctions to European leaders for approval,” she says.

Chabad rabbi in east Ukraine: We’re readying synagogues so Jewish community can shelter

A Chabad emissary to Ukraine says that they are preparing synagogues with sandbags for protection so that the Jewish community has a place to shelter.

“At 5:00 a.m. we heard missiles and explosions and we got up and packed our things straight away. We did not believe that something like this could happen, but we are people of faith and we have a lot of responsibility,” Rabbi Mendel Moskovitz, who lives in the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, tells the Ynet news site.

“There are 20,000 Jews here who are calling us now. We are preparing the synagogue to protect the windows with sandbags. People have nowhere to go,” he says.

Russian ground troops enter Ukraine as Kyiv confirms first soldier killed in invasion

Russia’s ground forces cross into Ukraine from several directions, Ukraine’s border guard service says, hours after President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a major offensive.

Russian tanks and other heavy equipment have already crossed the frontier in several northern regions, as well as from the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea in the south.

The border guard service says one of its servicemen died in a shelling attack along the Crimean border, the first officially confirmed military death of the Russian invasion.

Minister says Israel ready to take in Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, send aid

Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, November 15, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, November 15, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Minister of Immigration and Absorption Pnina Tamano-Shata says Israel is ready to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine and take in Jewish immigrants from the country in light of the Russian invasion of the country launched earlier today.

“Israel is prepared to deliver immediate humanitarian assistance to Ukraine,” Tamano-Shata tells visiting leaders of American Jewish organizations in Jerusalem.

“We are ready to accept thousands of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine,” she adds.

Russia says it took out Ukraine air defenses; Ukraine says it shot down 5 Russian aircraft

People react standing behind the cordoned off area around the remains of a shell in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)
People react standing behind the cordoned off area around the remains of a shell in Kyiv on February 24, 2022 (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

The Russian military says it has knocked out Ukraine’s air defense assets and airbases.

The Russian Defense Ministry says the Russian strikes have “suppressed air defense means of the Ukrainian military,” adding that the “infrastructure of Ukraine’s military bases has been incapacitated.”

It denies the claims that a Russian warplane was shot down over Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, reports that it has shot down five Russian aircraft while fending off the Russian attack on the country.

Foreign Ministry: Israelis should evacuate Ukraine via western land border crossings

A man walks past a writing 'Bomb shelter' on the wall in Mariupol, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A man walks past a writing 'Bomb shelter' on the wall in Mariupol, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

The Foreign Ministry says Israelis remaining in Ukraine should make their way to land border crossings on the western borders of the country.

The ministry says Israeli staff have been stationed at the following border crossings:

Medyka border crossing into Poland
Vysne Nemecke border crossing into Slovakia
Zahony border crossing into Hungary
Sighet border crossing into Romania

Later in the day, there will also be an Israeli representative in Moldova at the Palanca border crossing.

Citizens who need assistance or guidance can contact the Foreign Ministry’s situation room in Israel — 02-530-3155

The embassy is also operating two hot lines in Ukraine:
+380 67 770 3536
+380 67 770 4216

The Foreign Ministry calls on Israeli citizens in Ukraine to follow reports in the media and listen to instructions of the local security forces.

The Foreign Ministry also asks Israelis in Ukraine to register here.

Some 8,000 Israelis are thought to remain in Ukraine having ignored repeated calls from the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in recent days that they should leave.

Ukraine tweets caricature showing Hitler giving his approval to Putin

Pro-Ukraine demonstrators display a placard comparing Putin to Hitler during a demonstration in support to Ukraine at the Venceslas square in Prague, Czech Republic on February 22, 2022 (Michal Cizek / AFP)
Pro-Ukraine demonstrators display a placard comparing Putin to Hitler during a demonstration in support to Ukraine at the Venceslas square in Prague, Czech Republic on February 22, 2022 (Michal Cizek / AFP)

The official Ukrainian Twitter account tweets a caricature depicting Nazi leader Adolf Hitler seemingly giving his approval to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The comparison between Hitler and Putin has been a frequent theme in Ukrainian protests in the run-up to the Russian invasion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also compares Putin’s “very evil” aggression and recognition of separatist regions to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938.

“This, my friends, is our moment. This is the Sudetenland — that’s what people were saying there,” Pelosi says, referring to the Munich Security Conference in Germany at the weekend.

Lapid set to hold situational assessment on Ukraine, Foreign Ministry says

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks at the Conference of Presidents meeting in Jerusalem on February 21, 2022. (Miri Shimonovich/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks at the Conference of Presidents meeting in Jerusalem on February 21, 2022. (Miri Shimonovich/GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will hold a situational assessment on Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry says.

The Ministry says it is in contact with diplomatic staff who are now located in the western city of Lviv after diplomats were moved out of the capital Kyiv in recent days.

Some 8,000 Israelis are believed to remain in Ukraine and preparations have also been made to help the Jewish community there.

The ministry says it will issue an update after the meeting.

Some 8,000 Israelis remain in Ukraine with airspace now closed to civilian planes

Travelers wait at the check-in counters ahead of their flights at the Boryspil airport some 30 kilometres outside Kyiv on February 13, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky / AFP)
Travelers wait at the check-in counters ahead of their flights at the Boryspil airport some 30 kilometres outside Kyiv on February 13, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky / AFP)

According to most recent estimates by the Foreign Ministry, some 8,000 Israelis remain in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the Foreign Ministry have issued multiple calls for Israelis in Ukraine to immediately leave the country, warning that an outbreak of war would be “quick and severe.”

With Ukrainian airspace now closed to civilian aircraft, evacuations will only be possible by land.

Israeli diplomats serving in countries bordering Ukraine — Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova — have made preparations in recent days for a potential land evacuation of Israelis and Ukrainian Jews if necessary.

Air raid sirens sound in Lviv, the western Ukraine city where embassies relocated

A general view of the center in Ukraine's western city of Lviv (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A general view of the center in Ukraine's western city of Lviv (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Air raid sirens sound in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv.

There are no immediate sounds of explosions or other signs of attack.

The city has turned into the temporary base of several Western embassies, including Israel, the United States and Britain, which evacuated their diplomats from the capital Kyiv in the days preceding Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Troops seen entering Ukraine also from Belarus — reports

Ukraine is under attack from Belarus as well as Russia, border guards tell AFP.

Troops are entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus, CNN reports.

The CNN report is based on footage from a livestream of a camera in the area.

The outlet says troops are entering at the Senkivka, Ukraine crossing with Veselovka, Belarus.

Tens of thousands of Russian troops are in Belarus.

The military exercises by Russia in Belarus were supposed to end last weekend but Minsk then announced that the troops would remain to carry out more maneuvers for an unspecified duration.

The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv lies just 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the Belarusian border, while the northern Ukrainian city of Chernigiv is a mere 60 kilometers (40 miles) east of Belarus.

Russia says it is targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure

The Russian defense ministry says it is targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure with precision weapons after President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation against the country.

“Military infrastructure, air defense facilities, military airfields, and aviation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are being disabled with high-precision weapons,” the defense ministry says in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Ukraine’s Zelensky declares martial law, vows victory

People line up to use an ATM machine outside in Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022 (Vadim Ghirda/AP)
People line up to use an ATM machine outside in Sievierodonetsk, the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022 (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky says that Russia is attacking his country’s “military infrastructure” and border guards, but urges citizens not to panic and vowed victory.

In a video message posted on Facebook after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a military operation against Ukraine, Zelensky also introduces martial law across the country, adding that he has spoken by phone with US President Joe Biden.

UN’s Guterres: Russia invasion of Ukraine is ‘saddest moment’ of 5-year tenure

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the General Assembly 58th plenary meeting in New York on February 23, 2022, on the Russia-Ukraine conflict (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the General Assembly 58th plenary meeting in New York on February 23, 2022, on the Russia-Ukraine conflict (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says Russia’s attack on Ukraine — as he appealed for President Vladimir Putin to stop his troops — is “the saddest moment” of his five-year tenure.

The UN chief opens the emergency Security Council meeting by urgently appealing to Putin: “In the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia.”

Guterres urges the Russian president to withdraw his troops and added: “In the name of humanity do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century, with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation, but with an impact we cannot even foresee in relation to the consequences for the global economy.”

A war would cause deaths and displacement and people will lose hope in the future, Guterres says, adding Russia’s actions would harm the global economy.

“What is clear for me is that this war doesn’t make any sense,” Guterres says, stressing that it violates the UN Charter and will cause a level of suffering if it doesn’t stop that Europe hasn’t know since at least the 1990s Balkans crisis.

Ukraine shuts airspace; EU agency warns civilian planes may be targeted

Ukraine says it closed its airspace to civilian flights due to a “high risk” to safety, the Reuters news agency reports.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says airspace within 100 nautical miles (185 km) of Ukraine’s borders with Russia and Belarus could also be unsafe for planes.

“In particular, there is a risk of both intentional targeting and misidentification of civil aircraft,” the agency says.

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