Live updates: UN: More than 200,000 have fled Ukraine

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Demonstrators hold a pro-Ukraine rally outside Downing Street in London, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine’s capital Saturday, and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter. (AP Photo / David Cliff)

AP

The latest on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

GENEVA – The United Nations’ refugee agency says the latest count of Ukrainians arriving in neighboring countries now exceeds 200,000.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on Twitter that the numbers of those fleeing invading Russian troops were constantly changing and another update would be issued later Sunday.

The agency’s estimate on Saturday was that at least 150,000 have fled Ukraine into Poland and other countries including Hungary and Romania.

Poland’s government said Saturday that more than 100,000 Ukrainians had crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border in the past 48 hours alone.

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KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s president says his country is ready for peace talks with Russia but not in Belarus, which was a staging ground for Moscow’s 3-day-old invasion.

Speaking in a video message Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy named Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as alternative venues. He said other locations are also possible but made clear that Ukraine does not accept Russia’s selection of Belarus.

The Kremlin said Sunday that a Russian delegation had arrived in the Belarusian city of Homel for talks with Ukrainian officials. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the delegation includes military officials and diplomats.

“The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians,” Peskov said.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, with troops moving from Moscow’s ally Belarus in the north, and also from the east and south.

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MOSCOW – The Kremlin says a Russian delegation has arrived in the Belarusian city of Homel for talks with Ukrainian officials.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the delegation includes military officials and diplomats. “The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians,” Peskov said.

There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials, who previously expressed their own readiness for peace talks with Russia but have not mentioned any specific details on their location and timing.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, and its troops are closing in on the capital, Kyiv, and making significant gains along the country’s coast.

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KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian authorities say that Russian troops have entered Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv and fighting is underway in the streets.

Oleh Sinehubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said Sunday that Ukrainian forces were fighting Russian troops in the city and asked civilians not to leave their homes.

Russian troops approached Kharkiv, which is located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south of the border with Russia, shortly after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine on Thursday. But until Sunday, they remained on its outskirts without trying to enter the city while other forces rolled past, pressing their offensive deeper into Ukraine.

Videos on Ukrainian media and social networks showed Russian vehicles moving across Kharkiv and a light vehicle burning on the street.

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TEL AVIV, Israel – An organization that facilitates Jewish immigration to Israel says it is ramping up its efforts along Ukrainian border crossings to absorb what it expects to be a wave of new immigrants fleeing the Russian invasion.

The Jewish Agency for Israel said late Saturday it plans to open six processing facilities along Ukraine’s borders with Poland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary. The organization said in a statement it also plans to assist Ukrainian Jews with temporary housing in bordering countries until they can leave to Israel.

The agency said it assisted a group of new immigrants to cross into Poland on Saturday where they are awaiting a flight to Israel.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry estimates there are at least 120,000 Jews in Ukraine. Israel also has a sizeable population of Ukrainian emigres.

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LOS ANGELES – Elon Musk says his SpaceX company’s Starlink satellite internet service is now “active” in Ukraine.

The tech billionaire made the announcement on Twitter in response to a tweet by Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation saying that while Musk is trying to “colonize Mars,” Russia is trying to occupy Ukraine. The minister called on Musk to provide his country with Starlink stations.

In his response Saturday, Musk said: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route. ”

Starlink is a satellite-based internet system that SpaceX has been building for years to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world. It markets itself as “ideally suited” for areas where internet service is unreliable or unavailable.

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UNITED NATIONS – The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is aware of requests by Ukraine’s UN ambassador and others to repatriate the bodies of Russian soldiers killed in action in Ukraine but has no numbers.

Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted Saturday that Ukraine has appealed to the ICRC “to facilitate repatriation of thousands of bodies of Russian soldiers” killed during its invasion of Ukraine. An accompanying chart claimed 3,500 Russian troops had been killed.

Kyslytsya tweeted that parents in Russia should have a chance “to bury them with dignity.” “Do not let (Russian President Vladimir) Putin hide scale of tragedy,” he urged.

Laetitia Courtois, ICRC’s permanent observer to the United Nations told The Associated Press Saturday night that the current security situation “is a primary concern and a limitation for our teams on the ground” and “we therefore can not confirm numbers or other details.”

She said “the ICRC can act as a neutral intermediary” on the return of bodies and other humanitarian issues in conflict, including clarifying the fate of missing persons, reuniting families, and advocating for the protection of detainees “within its possibilities.”

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KYIV, Ukraine – The Ukrainian president’s office said Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection warned that the explosion, which it said looked like a mushroom cloud, could cause an “environmental catastrophe” and advised residents to cover their windows with damp cloth or gauze and to drink plenty of fluids.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, said Russian forces have been unable to take Kharkiv, where a fierce battle is underway.

The city of 1.5 million is located 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border.

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GENEVA – The United Nations says it has confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 people killed, in the fighting in Ukraine that erupted since Russia’s invasion on Thursday – though it believed the “real figures are considerably higher” because many reports of casualties remain to be confirmed.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs relayed the count late Saturday from the UN human rights office, which has strict methodologies and verification procedures about the toll from conflict.

OCHA also said damage to civilian infrastructure has deprived hundreds of thousands of people of access to electricity or water, and produced a map of “humanitarian situations” in Ukraine – mostly in northern, eastern and southern Ukraine.

The human rights office had reported early Friday an initial count by its staffers of at least 127 civilian casualties – 25 people killed and 102 injured – mostly from shelling and airstrikes.

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PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron has asked his Belarus counterpart to demand that the country, Ukraine’s neighbor, quickly order Russian troops to leave.

In a phone conversation Saturday, Macron denounced “the gravity of a decision that would authorize Russia to deploy nuclear arms on Belarus soil,” a statement by the presidential palace said.

Macron told Alexander Lukashenko that fraternity between the people of Belarus and Ukraine should lead Belarus to “refuse to be a vassal and an accomplice to Russia in the war against Ukraine,” the statement said.

Belarus was one one of several axes used by Russia to launch attacks on Ukraine, with Belarus the point to move towards the capital Kyiv, a senior US defense official has said.

Macron has pushed persistently to try to claw out a ceasefire amid the war, using the telephone to talk to all sides, diplomacy and sanctions by the European Union.

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MOSCOW – Russia is closing its airspace to planes from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Slovenia, a move that comes as Moscow’s ties with the West plunge to new lows over its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s state aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, announced early Sunday that the measure was taken in retaliation for the four nations closing their airspace for Russian planes.

On Saturday, the agency also reported closing the Russian airspace for planes from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic in response to them doing the same.

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WASHINGTON – The US, 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.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she would push the bloc also to “paralyze the assets of Russia’s Central bank” so that its transactions would be frozen.

Cutting several commercial banks from SWIFT “will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” she said.

As a third measure, she said the EU would “commit to taking measures to limit the sale of citizenship — so called golden passports — that let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems.”

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COPENHAGEN— Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet says two freelancers working for the paper were injured when the car they were traveling in was hit by gunfire near the village of Ohtyrka in eastern Ukraine.

The reporter and photographer were taken to a local hospital, Ekstra Bladet said, adding their injuries were not life-threatening. The paper was working with a security firm to have the two journalists evacuated.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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