Live Updates: Meta Restricts Access to Russian State Media

Live Updates: Meta Restricts Access to Russian State Media
A refugee child fleeing the conflict from neighbouring Ukraine sits in a bus at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

WASHINGTON — The parent company of Facebook and Instagram says it is restricting access to Russia’s RT and Sputnik in Europe over concerns the two state-controlled media outlets are being used to spread disinformation and propaganda.

Monday’s action by Menlo Park, Calif.-based Meta came after its announcement over the weekend that it was banning ads from Russian state media and had removed a network of 40 fake accounts, pages and groups that published pro-Russian talking points. The network used fictitious persons posing as journalists and experts, but had yet to create much of an audience. Facebook began labelling Russian state-run media in 2020.

RT and Sputnik are part of Russia’s sprawling propaganda machine, spreading information that supports Russia’s invasion while seeking to undermine and criticize the response by other nations.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian Orthodox bishops are calling on their superior in Moscow to urge Russia’s leadership to stop the war in Ukraine.

The Holy Synod – the governing body of bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church — asked Moscow Patriarch Kirill to call on Russian leaders to stop hostilities. The appeal shows a growing chasm between Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, and his own bishops in Ukraine over the war.

Patriarch Kirill has long had friendly ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In statements to date, he has called for an end to “fratricidal” war in Ukraine, but he has not assigned blame for the conflict and has emphasized a call for Orthodox unity.

While the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is under the ultimate authority of Kirill, it also enjoys considerable autonomy. Its synod also called for divine intervention on behalf of Ukraine’s army.

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TORONTO — Canada will be supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons systems, upgraded ammunition and is banning all imports of crude oil from Russia.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the shipments are addition to the three previous shipments of lethal and non-lethal equipment. Canada announced this week it would be sending new shipments of military supplies, including body armor, helmets, gas masks, and night-vision goggles.

Canada does not import much oil from Russia.

Trudeau called for the end to the war, saying its costs would only grow grow steeper and that those responsible will be held accountable.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United States says it is expelling 12 Russian diplomats at the United Nations for engaging in activities not in accordance with their responsibilities and obligations as diplomats.

U.S. deputy ambassador Richard Mills confirmed the expulsions after Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the U.N. Security Council on Monday afternoon that he had just been informed of “yet another hostile step undertaken by the host country” against the Russian Mission.

Nebenzia called the U.S. expulsions a “gross violation” of the U.N. agreement with the United States as the host of the United Nations and of the Vienna Convention governing diplomatic relations.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union has slapped sanctions on 26 more Russians, including oligarchs, senior officials and an energy insurance company, in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, bringing the total of people targeted to 680.

EU headquarters said those listed include “oligarchs and businessmen active in the oil, banking and finance sectors,” government officials, top military brass and “propagandists who contributed to spread anti-Ukrainian propaganda and promote a positive attitude towards the invasion of Ukraine.”

The bloc had already imposed an asset freeze on President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. No travel ban was imposed to allow the two men to take part in any diplomatic efforts, should Russia consider bringing an end to the war on its former Soviet neighbor.

EU sanctions now apply to a total of 680 people and 53 entities, which are usually organizations, agencies, banks or companies. Gas Industry Insurance Company SOGAZ was listed Monday.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Satellite images show Russian troops are attacking Ukraine on multiple fronts and are advancing on the capital city of Kyiv.

On Monday, a convoy consisting of hundreds of armored vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles was just 17 miles (25 kilometers) from the center of Kyiv. The city is home to nearly 3 million residents.

The images from Maxar Technologies also captured signs of fighting outside Kyiv, including destroyed vehicles and a damaged bridge.

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PARIS – France has decided to move its embassy out of the Ukrainian capital, but the French ambassador will remain in the country.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says the French Embassy, which had been holding out in Kyiv amid war, was being transferred to the western city of Lviv.

Le Drian told French television station BFMTV on Monday that Ambassador Etienne de Poncins would remain in Ukraine. Russia invaded its smaller neighbor on Thursday, drawing international condemnation.

Asked if the ambassador was under threat in the capital, Le Drian said that “the risks and threats were sufficiently important” to transfer the embassy’s operations to Lviv, not far from the Polish border.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists his country “won’t give up” on its relations with either Russia or Ukraine, but says it will implement an international convention that allows Turkey to shut down the straits at the entrance of the Black Sea to the warships of “belligerent countries.”

The 1936 Montreux Convention gives Turkey the right to bar warships from using the Dardanelles and the Bosporus during wartime. Ukraine has asked Turkey to implement the treaty and bar access to Russian warships.

Several Russian ships have already sailed through the straits to the Black Sea in the past weeks and it was not clear how much of an impact Turkey’s decision to close down the straits would have on the conflict. The convention, also provides an exception for Black Sea vessels returning to port.

Turkey has criticized Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, but has also been trying to balance its close ties to Ukraine with its interests in not upsetting its fragile economic relationship with Russia.

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GENEVA — Russian teams have been suspended from international soccer after the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision came Monday from FIFA and UEFA, saying Russia’s national teams and clubs were suspended “until further notice.”

“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.”

UEFA also ended its sponsorship with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

The move comes as the International Olympic Committee urged sports bodies to exclude Russian athletes and officials from international events, including soccer’s World Cup. The Olympic body’s call also applied to athletes and officials from Belarus, which has abetted Russia’s invasion by allowing its territory to be used to station troops and launch military attacks.

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GENEVA — International sports bodies are moving to further isolate Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and push Moscow closer to becoming a pariah on the playing field.

The International Olympic Committee on Monday urged sports bodies to exclude Russian athletes and officials from international events, including soccer’s World Cup. The Olympic body’s call also applied to athletes and officials from Belarus, which has abetted Russia’s invasion by allowing its territory to be used to station troops and launch military attacks.

The IOC said it was needed to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”

The decision opened the way for FIFA, the governing body of soccer, to exclude Russia from the World Cup ahead of a qualifying playoff on March 24. Poland already has refused to play the scheduled game against Russia.

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MOSCOW — The first round of Ukraine-Russia talks aimed at ending the fighting between Moscow and its smaller neighbor concluded with no immediate agreements.

An aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin says talks with Ukrainian officials lasted nearly five hours.

Vladimir Medinsky headed the Russian delegation in Belarus. He said the two sides “found certain points on which common positions could be foreseen.”

Another round of talks was agreed to, Medinsky said.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, gave few details except to say that the talks, held near the Ukraine-Belarus border, were focused on a possible cease-fire and that a second round could take place “in the near future.”

“The next meeting will take place in the coming days on the Polish-Belarusian border, there is an agreement to that effect,” Medinsky said.

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BERLIN — The European Space Agency says the planned launch of a joint mission with Russia to Mars this year is now “very unlikely” due to sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine.

Following a meeting of officials from its 22 member states Monday, the agency said in a statement that it was assessing the consequences of sanctions for its cooperation with Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.

“Regarding the ExoMars program continuation, the sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 very unlikely,” it said.

The launch was already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak and technical problems.

The mission’s goal is to put a lander on the red planet to help determine whether there has ever been life on Mars.

On Saturday, Roscosmos said it was pulling its personnel from the European space port in Kourou, French Guiana.

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CAIRO — The Arab League has voiced concerns about the war in Ukraine, but it refrained from demanding an end to the Russian invasion.

The pan-Arab organization says in a communique Monday it supports all ongoing efforts to resolve the crisis “through dialogue and diplomacy.”

The communique comes after a meeting of representatives of the 22-member Arab League in Cairo.

The communique didn’t mention Russia, which has close ties with regional powers like Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Most governments in the Arab regions have avoided criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The UAE, which holds a temporary seat at the U.N. Security Council, has joined China and India in abstaining during a vote on a U.S. resolution condemning the invasion.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say at least 44 people have been wounded in fighting in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, and that seven of them died in hospitals.

It wasn’t clear if the casualties, which covered the past 24 hours, were all civilians. The state emergencies agency said the casualties could be higher because the damage from Monday’s shelling of residential areas is still being assessed.

Ukrainian social networks featured videos showing residential quarters hit by a series of powerful explosions amid fighting with Russian forces.

The Russian military has consistently denied targeting residential areas despite abundant evidence of shelling of residential buildings, schools and hospitals.

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GENEVA — The Swiss president says Russia’s attack on Ukraine is “unacceptable” and Switzerland will adopt European Union sanctions, including asset freezes, targeting Russians – all but depriving well-heeled Russians of access to one of their favorite havens to park their money.

Ignazio Cassis told a news conference Monday that Russia’s invasion was intolerable on moral and political grounds. Switzerland’s government has been trying to balance its condemnation of Russia’s actions with its history of neutrality and as an intermediary between opposing countries.

Referring to the Swiss executive body, he added: “The Federal Council has decided to take up fully the sanctions of the European Union, including the asset freezes.”

Switzerland is not a European Union member but is all but surrounded by four EU countries: Austria, France, Germany and Italy.

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MOSCOW — Russia has closed its airspace to carriers from 36 nations, including European countries and Canada, responding in kind to their move to close their respective airspaces to all Russian aircraft.

The move, announced Monday by the state aviation agency, follows a decision by the EU and Canada over the weekend to close their skies to the Russian planes in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

It added that planes from those countries could only enter Russia’s airspace with special permission.

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WASHINGTON, D.C — The State Department has closed the U.S. Embassy in Belarus and is allowing nonessential staff at the U.S. Embassy in Russia to leave the country due to the war in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the suspension of operations at the Minsk embassy and the authorized departure from Moscow in a statement on Monday.

“We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” he said.

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BEIJING — China is criticizing the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine, saying that will harm the chances of finding a political settlement.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Monday reiterated China’s standard opposition to “unilateral sanctions that have no basis in international law,” despite Beijing’s own use of such measures against countries such as Lithuania over its stance on Taiwan.

“Facts have long proven that sanctions could not help solve problems but create new issues,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing. “It will not only result in a lose-lose or multi-lose situation economically, but also disrupt the process of political settlement.”

China, along with India and the United Arab Emirates, abstained in Friday’s 11-1 vote on a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine.

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