Russian military conscripts will not go to Ukraine, Putin says

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia will not use conscript soldiers in Ukraine and there will be “no additional call-up of reservists”.
  • Russia plans to introduce “humanitarian corridors” from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, and other Ukrainian cities, the RIA news agency reported.
  • Ukraine and Russia say small progress on evacuation logistics was made in a third round of talks.
  • United Nations aid chief calls for safe passage for civilians to leave conflict areas in Ukraine “in the direction they choose”.
  • US envoy to UN urges Russia to make “firm” commitment to facilitate humanitarian access.
  • Russian move to longer-range attacks in Ukraine has increased civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure, Pentagon says.

Here are all the latest updates:

Ukrainian officials say Russia stepped up shelling of major cities

In Kyiv, soldiers and volunteers have built hundreds of checkpoints to protect the city of nearly 4 million, often using sandbags, stacked tires and spiked cables, local officials have said.

“Every house, every street, every checkpoint, we will fight to the death if necessary,” said Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who noted that fierce battles continued in the Kyiv region, notably around Bucha, Hostomel, Vorzel and Irpin.

Russian forces launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks, dropping powerful bombs on residential areas of Chernihiv, a city north of Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said. But a long Russian armored column threatening Kyiv remained stalled.

Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, were also shelled. Ukrainian forces were also defending Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port city, from Russian ships, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.

INTERACTIVE- Ukraine main population centres 2021

What is a no-fly zone and why has NATO said no?

The Ukrainian government has urged the US-led alliance to enforce a no-fly zone over the country, saying it is necessary to protect Ukrainian civilians under Russian shelling, but the Biden administration has ruled out such a move.

Officials and experts warn of spiralling escalation if the US gets directly involved in war.

Read more here.

US jet in mid-air
A NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Ukraine could lead to military confrontation with Russia, officials and analysts have warned [File: Joseph Barron/US Air Force via AP]

Russia recruiting Syrians to fight in Ukraine, Pentagon says

Russia is recruiting Syrians and other foreign fighters as it ramps up its assault on Ukraine, the Pentagon has said.

Moscow entered the Syrian civil war in 2015 on the side of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and the country has been mired in a conflict marked by urban combat for more than a decade.

Now, US Department of Defence officials said, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was “on a recruiting mission” seeking to bring some of those fighters into the fray in Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“We do believe that the accounts of them – the Russians – seeking Syrian fighters to augment their forces in Ukraine, we believe there’s truth to that,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told journalists when asked about the reports.

Russian troops blocked evacuation attempts, opened fire, Ukraine’s UN ambassador says

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN has said Russia blocked “numerous attempts” to evacuate civilians from the suburbs of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson through so-called humanitarian corridors.

“They denied access of international organisations to provide humanitarian assistance to the most affected places,” Sergiy Kyslytsya said during a meeting of the UN Security Council.

“It is even more appalling that Russian troops opened fire on evacuees and evacuation vehicles, shelled the roads allocated for humanitarian corridors.”

He said Russia shelled roads near Mariupol and blew up a railway in Irpin in the Kyiv region, adding that it would be “pure hypocrisy” to push Ukrainians to Belarus or to Russia while Europe’s borders are open to Ukrainian refugees.

Czech president to award state honour to Ukraine’s president

Czech President Milos Zeman, long sympathetic to Moscow, has said he would award the highest state honours to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his bravery and courage in the face of Russia’s invasion.

Zeman showed support for Ukraine and its people as “war raged”, calling the war one provoked by Russian aggression.

He said one parliamentary deputy had proposed awarding Zelenskyy the highest Czech honours. “And I decided to comply with this proposal,” Zeman said.

“This is because the Ukrainian president has shown courage and bravery, and although the United States offered him an evacuation, he stayed in the capital of his country, from where he is leading its defence.”

Zelenskyy says Russian forces scuppering civilian evacuations

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused the Russian army of scuppering the evacuation of civilians through humanitarian corridors agreed after talks with Moscow.

“There was an agreement on humanitarian corridors. Did that work? Russian tanks worked in its place, Russian Grads [multiple rocket launchers], Russian mines,” Zelensky said in a video posted on Telegram.

Bank of Portugal tells lenders to freeze accounts of Russian oligarchs

Portugal’s central bank has said it had instructed lenders to freeze the accounts of people and entities targeted by sanctions against Russia.

The Bank of Portugal, led by former Finance Minister Mario Centeno, said it had initially identified a “very small number” of sanctioned people and entities with Portuguese bank accounts but said assessment efforts were ongoing.

In a statement, the central bank said lenders were told to start freezing bank accounts on February 25 and should continue to monitor the list of sanctioned people and entities so they can quickly act when and if new names are added.

Ukrainian civilians must be allowed safe passage: UN aid chief

Civilians stuck in areas of active hostilities in Ukraine should be allowed safe passage in any direction they choose, United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths has said during a UN Security Council meeting.

“The parties must take constant care to spare civilians and civilian homes and infrastructure in their military operations,” Griffiths said. “This includes allowing safe passage for civilians to leave areas of active hostilities on a voluntary basis, in the direction they choose.”

Ukrainian cities under attack – including Kharkiv, Mariupol and Melitopol – desperately needed aid and medical supplies, he added.

War not going as Russia planned: UK ambassador to US

Karen Pierce, the UK ambassador to the US, has suggested that the invasion of Ukraine is not going as planned for Russia, saying that Moscow has been met with transatlantic unity and Ukrainian resistance.

“If I sat in Moscow and I were an adviser to President Putin, I would be interested in the fact that because of this invasion of Ukraine, more and more countries want a relationship with NATO. NATO members have been brought closer together,” Pierce told Al Jazeera in an interview.

“So if I sat in the Kremlin, I don’t know from a Russian perspective that this is turning out the way they want. And in addition, their forces are not doing as well as they had planned in Ukraine itself.”

Putin says Russia will not send conscripts to Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will not send conscripts or reservists to fight in Ukraine and that “professionals” fulfilling “fixed objectives” were leading the war.

“Conscripted soldiers are not participating and will not participate in the fighting. There will not be an additional conscription of reservists either,” Putin said in a televised address. “The fixed objectives are only carried out by professional servicemen.”

US envoy to UN calls on Russia to guarantee humanitarian access

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda-Thomas Greenfield, has called for a pause in hostilities to allow the safe passage of civilians who wish to leave conflict areas in Ukraine.

Speaking to the UN Security Council, Thomas-Greenfield called for Russia’s “firm, clear, public and unequivocal commitment” to allow and facilitate immediate, unhindered humanitarian access for humanitarian partners in Ukraine.

She added that the Biden administration was “outraged” by reports of Russian attacks harming civilians.

No major Russian progress in north and northeast Ukraine: Pentagon

The United States does not believe Russian forces have made major progress in the north and northeast of Ukraine in the last few days, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that Russian troops had taken the city of Kherson and were attempting to encircle Mariupol, but were not in control of it.

Kirby also said Russia’s move to longer-range attacks had increased civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. “More civilians are being killed and wounded,” he said, urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Read all the updates from Monday, March 7, here.

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