Live updates: Ukraine gets $34M in cryptocurrency donations
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
BOSTON — A firm that tracks cryptocurrency transactions says $33.8 million in the digital currency has been donated to Ukraine’s government and non-governmental organizations there since the start of Russia’s invasion, nearly a third of it on Tuesday.
Chief Scientist Tom Robinson of Elliptic said most donations to date have been in bitcoin and ether. Some people are sending non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, to the Ukrainian government’s ethereum account.
Ukraine issued a plea for contributions on Twitter last week. To date, it has received 30,000 donations, including $5.8 million from Gavin Wood, the British programmer who co-founded ethereum. There have been several other donations of more than $1 million.
Elliptic also warned of scammers tricking unsuspecting cryptocurrency holders wanting to donate to Ukrainian causes.
Elliptic is among firms that help law enforcement track cryptocurrency to combat money laundering.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is working on a “focused tactical strategy” to make certain that cryptocurrency doesn’t become a mechanism that Moscow is able to utilize to avert sanctions, according to a senior administration official.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the yet to be announced move, did not detail an exact timeline for when the new steps on cryptocurrency would be unveiled, but said the area is one of several spaces that the Biden administration officials are looking to shore up as it looks to make certain that sanctions on Russia have maximum impact.
The official said past experiences in Iran and Venezuela with sanctions evasion are informing the administration’s efforts. Additional export controls and new sanction targets are also expected to be unveiled in the days and weeks ahead to counter Russian sanction evasion efforts, the official said.
Officials have already been on the lookout for the use and creation of front companies and alternative financial institutions that Moscow might try to employ to get around sanctions.
TOKYO — Sony is donating $2 million as humanitarian aid to Ukraine though the United Nations Refugee Agency and aid group Save the Children.
The Japanese electronics and entertainment company has already said it will halt theatrical releases in Russia. Upcoming films include Morbius, starring the Marvel comics hero.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted and hope this crisis will be resolved quickly,” Sony Pictures said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Mickey Mikitani, chief executive of Japanese online retailer Rakuten, donated 1 billion yen ($8.7 million) to the Ukrainian government through the embassy in Japan.
Separately, the Foreign Ministry said the Japanese embassy in Kyiv is closing temporarily, with operations transferred to an office in Lviv, western Ukraine.
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden said in his first State of the Union address that the United States is closing its airspace to all Russian flights in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said the U.S. is working to seize yachts and apartments of Russian oligarchs.
Biden devoted the first 12 minutes of his address to Ukraine. Lawmakers of both parties repeatedly rose to their feet and applauded as he praised the bravery of Ukraine’s people and condemned Russia’s assault.
He warned of costs to the American economy, as well, but said that without consequences, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression wouldn’t be contained to Ukraine.
Biden declared that he and all members of Congress, whatever political differences there may be, were joined “with an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.”
CHICAGO — Airplane manufacturer Boeing says it has suspended major operations in Moscow and temporarily closed its office in Kyiv.
The company said in a statement it is also suspending parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines.
“As the conflict continues, our teams are focused on ensuring the safety of our teammates in the region,” the statement said.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says it has evidence that Belarus, a Russian ally, is preparing to send troops into Ukraine.
The ministry statement, posted on Facebook at midnight, said the Belarussian troops have been brought into combat readiness and are concentrated close to Ukraine’s northern border.
“During the past 24 hours, according to intelligence findings, there has been significant aircraft activity. In addition, there has been movement of a column of vehicles with food and ammunition” approaching the border,” the statement said.
IRVING, Texas — ExxonMobil says it will not invest in new developments in Russia because of Russian military attacks on Ukraine.
The company said in a statement it supports the people of Ukraine as they seek to “defend their freedom and determine their own future as a nation.”
ExxonMobil operates the Sakhalin-1 project on behalf of an international consortium of Japanese, Indian and Russian companies. The company says that in response to recent events, they are beginning the process to discontinue operations and developing steps to exit the Sakhalin-1 venture.
KYIV, Ukraine — A Russian airstrike hit a residential area near a hospital late Tuesday in Zhytomyr, a city about 85 miles (140 kilometers) west of Ukraine’s capital, Mayor Serih Sukhomlin said in a Facebook video.
Ukraine’s emergency services said the strike killed at least two people, set three homes on fire and broke the windows in the hospital.
Zhytomyr is the home of the elite 95th Air Assault Brigade, which may have been the intended target.
CHICAGO -- United Airlines said Wednesday it has stopped using Russian airspace for flights between the U.S. and Mumbai and Delhi in India.
An airline spokesperson called the move “temporary,” but gave no further details.
American Airlines has avoided Russian airspace for flights between Delhi and New York by flying south of Russia.
MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says his government will not impose any economic sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
The president often cites a guiding principle of nonintervention in foreign affairs.
He said Tuesday that “we want to maintain good relations with all the world’s governments, and we want to be in a position to be able to speak with all parties to the conflict.”
Russian investment in Mexico is estimated at some $132 million and the bilateral trade at more than $2.4 billion.
López Obrador also sounded off on the censoring of some Russia media outlets and called on Twitter to answer accusations that it is removing messages favorable to Russia. In his words, “We can’t be speaking of freedom and at the same time limiting freedom of expression.”
OKLAHOMA CITY — Republican politicians across the U.S. are criticizing President Joe Biden over his domestic energy policies and urging his administration to do more to embrace domestic production.
The sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies on Russia for its war with Ukraine so far do not include oil and gas exports from the country, a step that would have severely hurt Russia’s ability to generate revenue.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio both urged Biden on Tuesday to take steps to stop Russian oil imports to the U.S.
“The recent events in Ukraine are yet another example of why we should be selling energy to our friends and not buying it from our enemies,” Stitt wrote to Biden.
Portman said it doesn’t make sense to import Russian oil at the same time the Biden administration shut down the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have transported tens of thousands of barrels each day from Canada to U.S. refineries.
Cutting off Russian oil and gas imports could drive prices at the pump higher and have even more serious consequences for U.S. allies in Europe, which relies on natural gas from Russia for a third of its fossil fuel consumption.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says that dictators who do not “pay a price for their aggression” cause more chaos.
According to excerpts released Tuesday ahead of his first State of the Union address, Biden says that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was premeditated and unprovoked.
He will also highlight the importance of European allies in the speech before Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday evening. Biden says that the alliance established after World War II to secure “peace and stability” in Europe is just as relevant now.
He said that Putin believed he could divide the NATO alliance, but he was wrong.
CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple has stopped selling its iPhone and other popular products in Russia as part of an intensifying corporate crackdown spurred by the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The trendsetting Silicon Valley company disclosed its punitive measures in a statement Tuesday amid worldwide outrage over Russian President Vladmir Putin’s assault on Ukraine.
Other major U.S. companies, including prominent tech firms such as Google and Twitter, also have curtailed their business in Russia. But Apple’s actions could sharpen the backlash.
The iPhone and other devices such as the iPad and Mac computer are prized products for work and leisure. In the final three months of last year, for instance, Apple sold more smartphones than any other company in the world, according to the research firm International Data Corp, which didn’t break out sales within Russia.
Apple also doesn’t disclose how much of its roughly $365 billion in annual revenue comes from Russia either.
Besides halting sales of its devices, Apple said its mobile app store is blocking downloads of RT News and Sputnik News from outside Russia. It also has stopped live traffic updates on Apple Maps in Ukraine as a safety measure, mirroring action Google has already taken.
“We will continue to evaluate the situation and are in communication with relevant governments on the actions we are taking,” Apple said in its statement. “We join all those around the world who are calling for peace.”
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly will vote Wednesday afternoon on a resolution demanding that Russia immediately stop using force against Ukraine and withdraw all its military forces. The resolution also would condemn Moscow’s decision “to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces.”
So far, the resolution has 92 co-sponsors from all over the world, including Afghanistan and Myanmar, both of which saw their elected governments ousted last year.
After Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution last Friday demanding that Russia immediately stop its use of force and send its forces home, the U.S. and other supporters started the procedural steps to call an emergency special session of the General Assembly where there are no vetoes.
The council approved an emergency special session of the 193-member assembly on Sunday — the first in decades — and it began on Monday.
With 118 speakers signed up, the meeting was continuing Tuesday and is expected to wrap up on Wednesday morning, with the United States one of the last speakers. The resolution will then be put to a vote in the afternoon, General Assembly spokesperson Paulina Kubiak said Tuesday.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do have clout as a reflection of international opinion.
This item corrects the day the U.N. Security Council approved an emergency session and the day it began.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. on Tuesday injected a strong note of caution into the persistent reports that Russian military progress — including by the massive convoy outside Kyiv — has slowed, plagued by food and fuel shortages and logistical problems.
One senior Defense official said that the U.S. has seen Russian military columns literally run out of gas, and in some places running out of food, and that morale is suffering as a result.
But the official added that it is important to be pragmatic. The Russians still have a significant amount of combat power that has not yet been tapped, and “they will regroup, they will adjust, they will change their tactics.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments. Overall, the U.S. assesses that Russia has launched more than 400 missiles into Ukraine, of various types and sizes. As of Tuesday, the Ukrainian air and missile defense systems remain viable and are being used. Also, weapons from the U.S. and others continues to flow into Ukraine. The official said that the aid is getting to the Ukrainian military and troops are “actively using these systems.”
The official said Russians have made progress in the south, moving along two routes out of Crimea – one to the northeast and one to the northwest. It’s not clear that Russians have taken control of Kherson, but heavy fighting continues. And, the official said Russian forces have not yet advanced into Mariupol, but are close enough to strike into the city with long-range weapons.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that Russia should stop its bombardment of Ukraine before more talks on ending the war are held.
Ukrainian and Russian officials have held one round of talks since the six-day-long war began and reportedly are planning more.
“As for dialogue, I think yes, but stop bombarding people first and start negotiating afterwards,“ Zelenskyy said in a joint interview Tuesday with CNN and the Reuters news agency.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine has effectively asked that Russia be kicked off the internet.
In a letter sent Monday to the president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Ukraine’s deputy minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, cited the “atrocious crimes” of Russia’s invasion, including it’s alleged breach of the Geneva Conventions in attacking civilian targets.
Federov said the crimes “have been made possible mainly due to the Russian propaganda machinery” and cited cyberattacks “from the Russian side” that have impeded the ability of Ukrainians and their government to communicate.
Federov asked that ICANN revoke, permanently or temporarily, the domains .ru and .su and shut down the root servers in Moscow and St. Petersburg that match domain names and numbers.
“Russian citizens must feel the cost of war,” government spokesperson Oleksandr Ryzhenko said Tuesday.
ICANN had no immediate comment but the regional internet naming authority for Europe and the former Soviet Union, RIPE NCC, rejected the request.
In an email to members, RIPE’s executive board said it believes “the means to communicate should not be affected by domestic political disputes, international conflicts or war.”
Kicking Russia off the internet would be an annoyance to Russian hackers but it wouldn’t stop them since they could still use different top-level internet domains. But it would badly isolate the Russian public from international discourse.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a decree that prohibits taking more than $10,000 worth of foreign currency in cash and “monetary instruments” out of Russia.
The move comes in response to the crippling sanctions Western nations have imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, which this week tanked the ruble and sent Russians flocking to banks and ATM in fear for the fate of their savings.
Other measures Putin ordered this week included obligating Russian exporters to sell 80% of their revenues in foreign currency, prohibiting Russian residents from providing non-residents with foreign currency under loan agreements and from depositing foreign currency into foreign bank accounts.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The United Nations’ top court has scheduled hearings next week into a request by Ukraine for the court to order Moscow to halt its invasion.
Kyiv filed a case with the International Court of Justice on Saturday accusing Russia of planning genocide in Ukraine and asking for urgent “provisional measures” instructing Moscow to halt hostilities.
Lawyers for Ukraine will present arguments March 7 supporting its request. Russia’s lawyers will be given time to respond on March 8.
Ahead of the hearings, the court’s president, U.S. Judge Joan E. Donoghue, sent an urgent message Tuesday to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underscoring the necessity for Russia to “act in such a way as will enable any order the Court may make on the request for provisional measures to have its appropriate effects.”
The International Court of Justice rules in disputes between states. It often takes years to reach decisions, but orders on provisional measures are often delivered quickly.
UNITED NATIONS — The United States says it is expelling a Russian “intelligence operative” working for the United Nations, in addition to the 12 members of the Russian Mission to the United Nations whose expulsions were ordered Monday for engaging in espionage.
The U.N. was informed Monday that the U.S. was taking action to expel a staff member working for the U.N. Secretariat, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric confirmed.
“We regret that we find ourselves in this situation but are engaging with the host country,” he said Tuesday.
Dujarric refused to comment further on grounds of privacy and the sensitivity of the issue but did say “what makes this decision a little difficult to understand is that the staff member was scheduled to end his assignment on March 14.”
The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said in a statement Monday that the 12 Russian diplomats had “abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Mission said Tuesday: “On Feb. 28, the United States also initiated the process to require the departure of one Russian intelligence operative working at the United Nations who has abused their privileges of residence in the United States.” The spokesperson was not authorized to speak publicly and commented on condition of anonymity.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
GENEVA — Canada’s top diplomat said Tuesday her country will refer Russia to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes over its invasion of Ukraine, a move that will speed up an investigation by the court’s top prosecutor.
Foreign Minister Melanie Joly made the comments after helping lead a walkout of scores of diplomats from the Human Rights Council just as her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, addressed the U.N. human rights body in recorded video remarks.
“Minister Lavrov was being broadcasted and giving his version, which is false about what is happening in Ukraine. And so that’s why we wanted to show a very strong stance together today,” said Joly, flanked by Ukraine’s ambassador and standing behind that country’s blue-and-yellow flag.
On Monday, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced that he plans to open an investigation “as rapidly as possible” into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Khan told his team to explore how to preserve evidence of crimes and said the next step is to seek authorization from the court’s judges to open an investigation. However, he added that the process would be speeded up if a member nation of the court were to ask for an investigation in what is known as a referral.
Canada’s announcement will set that acceleration in motion.
JERUSALEM — Holocaust remembrance organizations in Israel are condemning a Russian attack that inflicted damage to the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a statement denouncing the incident, and said Israel would help repair any damage. “We are calling for the preservation and respect for this sacred site,” he said in a tweet that did not mention Russia by name.
The memorial is the site of a massacre of more than 33,000 Jews by Nazi Germany in 1941. It is located on the outskirts of Kyiv and adjacent to the city’s TV tower, where Ukrainian authorities said a Russian attack killed five people.
A spokesman for the memorial said that damage was caused to the Jewish cemetery at the site, but that assessing the full extent of the damage would have to wait until daylight.
The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial’s chairman, Natan Sharansky, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “seeks to distort and manipulate the Holocaust to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign democratic country is utterly abhorrent. It is symbolic that he starts attacking Kyiv by bombing the site of the Babyn Yar, the biggest of Nazi massacres.”
MOSCOW — A top radio station critical of the Kremlin was taken off the airwaves on Tuesday, its chief editor said and the Associated Press confirmed, after the authorities threatened to shut it down over the coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The move against Echo Moskvy, one of Russia’s oldest radio stations that is critical of the authorities, comes amid growing pressure on Russia’s independent media to cover the attack on Ukraine in accordance to the official line.
Officials on Tuesday have also threatened to block Dozhd, Russia’s top independent TV channel. The Prosecutor General’s office claimed the two outlets spread content inciting extremist activities, as well as “false information regarding the actions of Russian military personnel as part of a special operation” in Ukraine.
Shortly after Moscow invaded Ukraine, Russian officials threatened independent media with closure if their coverage of the attack deviates from the official narrative, including describing the assualt as an “invasion” or “a war”.
The website of the Current Time, a Russian TV channel launched by the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that has been critical of the Kremlin, became unavailable Sunday after the channel reported receiving a notification from the authorities.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for an immediate cease-fire between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
“Our call to both Russia and Ukraine is: let the firing stop as soon as possible, let Russia and Ukraine make a beautiful contribution to peace,” Erdogan said Tuesday during a joint news conference with Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu, on Tuesday.
The Turkish leader said Turkey welcomes overtures by European Union officials toward Ukraine after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed an application to join the bloc. He urged the EU to “show the same sensitivity” toward Turkey. The country is a candidate to join the EU but its accession talks have been stalled over a number of issues, including the country’s democratic backtracking.
“Are you going to bring Turkey’s (application) on the agenda when someone declares war on it and attacks?” Erdogan said.
Erdogan reiterated that Turkey, which has the second largest army within the alliance, supports NATO’s expansion.
MOSCOW — Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Tuesday the government has readied measures to temporarily restrict foreign investors from divesting Russian assets, saying the step would help them make “a considered decision” rather than succumb to political pressure of sanctions.
Mishustin said a presidential decree had been prepared imposing “temporary restrictions on exiting from Russian assets.” He did not provide details or say if the restrictions would apply to some forms of investment or to all.
Major Western corporations have come under pressure to divest stakes in Russian companies. Oil company BP said Sunday it would seek to dispose of its stake in Russian oil producer Rosneft and Shell said Monday it would exit all its Russian businesses. Other companies with major stakes include France’s TotalEnergies, which holds 19.4% of natural gas company Novatek.
Russian officials have taken steps to cushion the impact of massive economic sanctions, with the central bank raising interest rates to defend the ruble’s exchange rate, requiring companies to sell foreign exchange earnings, and making unlimited short term credit available to banks.
FRANKFURT, Germany -- The International Energy Agency’s 31 member countries have agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserves — half of that from the United States.
Tuesday’s decision by the board of the Paris-based IEA is meant “to send a strong message to oil markets” that there will be “no shortfall in supplies” after Russia invaded Ukraine.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement that President Joe Biden approved a commitment of 30 million barrels and that the U.S. is ready to “take additional measures” if needed.
Russia plays an outsized role in global energy markets as the third-largest oil producer.
While Western sanctions have not targeted Russia’s energy industry so far, the invasion has still shaken markets worldwide. Oil prices soared Tuesday. with U.S. benchmark crude surpassing $100 per barrel — the highest price since 2014.