Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russia Central Bank Assets frozen, Switzerland joins sanctions – NBC News

Zelenskyy signs application for Ukraine to join the European Union

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed an application Monday for Ukraine to join the European Union. 

“Our goal is to stand alongside all Europeans and, most importantly, to stand on their level,” Zelenskyy said about Ukraine’s effort to join the E.U. in a speech Monday. 

Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, tweeted a photo after Zelenskyy signed the document. 

Ukraine’s ambassador to the E.U., Matti Maasikas, also tweeted a photo showing a close-up of the application. 

There are certain criteria that countries wishing to join the E.U. need to meet including having stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and protection of minorities. The country must also have a functioning market economy and the ability to take on and implement obligations of membership. 

FIFA, UEFA suspend Russia from soccer competitions including the World Cup

The international governing body for soccer, FIFA, and the governing body for European soccer, UEFA, announced Monday that all Russian teams are suspended from participating in both FIFA and UEFA competitions. 

The suspension applies to both national representative teams or club teams, their statement said. The decision means Russia can no longer qualify for the 2022 World Cup. 

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” FIFA and UEFA said. “Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”

Twitter announces it’s adding labels to content from Russian state-affiliated media

Twitter announced Monday that it’s adding labels to tweets that share links to Russian state-affiliated media websites. 

The announcement was shared by Yoel Roth, head of site integrity at the social media giant, who said that Twitter is also “taking steps to significantly reduce the circulation of this content.” 

“We’ll roll out these labels to other state-affiliated media outlets in the coming weeks,” Roth added. 

Roth shared an image displaying what a warning label would look like if someone, for example, shares a link to RT, a Russian-state TV network.

Top Zelenskyy adviser: Russia ‘extremely biased’ during talks

Most Russian troops at the border now inside Ukraine, U.S. official says

About 75 percent of the combat power that Russia had amassed at the Ukraine border is now inside the country, a senior U.S. Department of Defense official said Monday.

Russia’s main objectives appear to be the capital, Kyiv, as well as the city of Kharkiv, the official said, adding the Kremlin’s advance on Kyiv remains slowed. Russian troops have advanced about 3 miles (5 kilometers) in the last 24 hours, and are still about 15 miles outside the city, the official said.

The official said the U.S. expects Russia will try to encircle Kyiv in the coming days, and is trying to do the same with Kharkiv, which has already seen heavy fighting in and around the city. The official said the U.S. believes all the troops in Ukraine are Russian, and no soldiers from Belarus, which has allied with Russia, are involved.

The official said there has been no significant new naval activity in the area, and the airspace over Ukraine remains contested, with air dominance shifting back and forth between the two countries. 

Russia has launched more than 380 missiles at Ukraine since the attack began, the official said, and there’s been no evidence of any change in Russia’s nuclear posture, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement Sunday that he was putting his country’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert.  

The U.S. has seen no “appreciable or noticeable muscle movements” of Russian nuclear forces, and “we remain comfortable and confident in our own strategic deterrence posture.”

Ukraine-Russia talks have concluded

Teaganne Finn

2h ago / 4:54 PM UTC

The Russian delegation says discussions with Ukraine have concluded. 

Leonid Slutsky, the head of the Russian parliament’s international affairs committee, speaking on Russia 24 from Belarus, said, “The talks have just finished.”  

“The Ukrainian delegation was prepared to listen and get deep into details,” said Slutsky. “We were not sure if the conversation would work, but it did.”

In the lead-up to the talks at the Belarusian border, Ukraine said that it would push for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country.

Facing widespread condemnation, Russia continues to blame Ukraine

Teaganne Finn

2h ago / 4:52 PM UTC

Facing widespread criticism at the U.N. General Assembly’s rare emergency special session, Russia’s ambassador placed blame on Ukraine for the violence.

“Mr. President, I wish to state that the Russian Federation did not begin these hostilities, the hostilities were unleashed by Ukraine against its own residents, the residents of Donbas and all of those who are dissenters and Russia is seeking to end this war,” said the representative. 

The representative said Russia does not support the draft resolution to condemn Russia’s actions being handled by the General Assembly as opposed to the U.N. Security Council, which voted in favor on Sunday. 

“We’re guided by the fact that that this measure proposes that we register that the Security Council failed to comply to uphold its main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and at the same time, there was not even a hint at an attempt to find a constructive solution at the Security Council, attempt to circumvent the position of the Russian Federation, to disregard the position of the Russian Federation runs counter to the very bedrock of the United Nations,” said the representative. 

“There’s a need to find common ground, regardless of our Western partners attempts to avoid this, including when they disregarded our legitimate concerns in connection with NATO policy and Western countries’ breach of the core principles of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] on indivisibility of security,” he continued.

Roman Abramovich, Chelsea soccer team’s Russian oligarch owner, to take part in peace talks

Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who owns the British soccer powerhouse Chelsea F.C., said Monday he’ll play an active role in efforts to broker peace in Ukraine.

Russian billionaire and businessman Roman Abramovich attends meetin at the Kremlin in Moscow on Dec. 19, 2016.Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images file

“I can confirm that Roman Abramovich was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution, and that he has been trying to help ever since,” an Abramovich representative said in a statement to NBC News.

“Considering what is at stake, we would ask for your understanding as to why we have not commented on neither the situation as such nor his involvement.”

Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, announced Saturday that he was transferring stewardship of the club to its charitable foundation. But he’s been under intense pressure to do or say more about Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its western neighbor.

Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador shares harrowing final text a Russian soldier sent to his mom

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In a powerful moment in front of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya read aloud the final text exchange that a Russian soldier had with his mother before he was killed.

The soldier’s mother had texted asking how her son was, why it had been so long since he had responded and inquiring whether he was still in training exercises, Kyslytsya said, reading texts in Russian from a screenshot. 

“Mom, I’m no longer in Crimea. I’m not in training sessions,” her son wrote back, according to Kyslytsya.

When his mother then asked where he was, explaining that his father wanted to send him a package, the soldier sent what would be his last text “several moments before he was killed,” Kyslytsya said.

“Mama, I’m in Ukraine. There is a real war raging here. I’m afraid. We are bombing all of the cities together, even targeting civilians. We were told that they would welcome us and they are falling under our armored vehicles, throwing themselves onto the wheels and not allowing us to pass,” he read. “They call us fascists, Mama. This is so hard.”

Photo: Destroyed school in Kharkiv

Playground equipment in front of a school destroyed as a result of fighting not far from the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday.

A school destroyed as a result of fighting not far from the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday.Sergey Bobok / AFP – Getty Images

Bulgarian prime minister fires top official who would not describe Ukraine invasion as war


3h ago / 4:02 PM UTC

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov on Monday fired Defense Minister Stefan Yanev for his reluctance to describe the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a war, reiterating that Sofia would speak in one voice with the European Union.

Petkov said his centrist coalition government would ask parliament on Tuesday to approve Yanev’s dismissal and appoint Todor Tagarev, who was a caretaker defense minister in 2013, to the post.

“My defense minister cannot use the word operation instead of the word war. You cannot call it an operation when thousands of soldiers from the one and the other side are already killed,” Petkov said in a televised statement.

“The Bulgarian interest is not in bending our heads down … When we see something we do not agree with, something so obvious, we cannot keep quiet,” Petkov said.

Bulgaria is a member of the E.U. and NATO but many in the Balkan country – which was the closest communist satellite of the Soviet Union during the Cold War era – feel a strong cultural and historical affinity with Russia.