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Ukraine has requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council after Russian breakaway regions in its east asked Moscow for military assistance. Follow DW for more.
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Ukraine's Parliament and other government and banking websites were hit by another wave of cyberattacks on Wednesday.
Cybersecurity researchers said unidentified attackers had also infected hundreds of computers with malware.
ESET Research Labs said it had detected a new data-wiping piece of malware in Ukraine Wednesday on "hundreds of machines" in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he believes Russia will engage in aggression against Ukraine within hours after separatists asked for Russian help to push back "aggression" from the Ukrainian government.
"Everything seems to be in place for Russia to engage in a major aggression against Ukraine," Blinken said in an interview.
Blinken said that he still held out hope for diplomacy to pull Europe back from the brink of war.
The European Union said in its official journal that it had imposed sanctions on a number of senior Russian officials.
The officials included Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov.
Andrey Kostin, chief executive officer of Russia's second-largest bank, Bank VTB PAO, was also hit by sanctions.
The EU also imposed sanctions on the head of Russia's state-run television channel RT and the foreign ministry's spokeswoman, the EU's official journal said.
Diplomats said that the UN security council will hold an emergency session on Ukraine on Wednesday night.
This will be the second meeting held on Ukraine in three days. Ukraine had requested the meeting earlier on Wednesday.
The emergency session will be held at 0230 GMT on Thursday.
Zelensky says he tried to call Putin
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that he had unsuccessfully sought talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the escalating crisis in eastern Ukraine.
"I initiated a telephone call with the president of the Russian federation. Result: silence," Zelensky said in an address posted on Telegram.
Zelensky also rejected Moscow's claim that Ukraine was a threat to Russia.
"The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace," Zelensky said, adding that a Russian invasion would cost tens of thousands of lives.
Zelensky added that there were now 200,000 Russian troops ammassed near Ukraine's borders.
Zelensky said that the people of Russia were being lied to about Ukraine and urged them to help stop a possible war.
"Who can stop (the war)? People. These people are among you, I am sure," he said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.
"Ukraine has requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council due to the appeal by Russian occupation administrations in Donetsk and Luhansk to Russia with a request to provide them with military assistance, which is a further escalation of the security situation," Kuleba said on Twitter.
The Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk regions in easter Ukraine has asked Russia for military aid. The US described it as a 'false flag' pretext for a Russian invasion.
The leaders of two Russian-backed separatist regions have asked Moscow to help them repel Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the leaders of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have asked Moscow for military help to fend off Ukrainian "aggression."
Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had received a letter from the two rebel leaders, which he recognized as independent this week.
"The actions of the Kyiv regime testify to the unwillingness to end the war in Donbas,", Peskov quoted the letter as saying.
The US has accused Russia of plotting so-called false flag incidents, provocations staged to create a pretext for action.
Ukrainian lawmakers approved a state of emergency for 30 days from midnight on Wednesday.
The move came after Russia recognized two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine as "independent."
It allows authorities to impose curfews and restrictions on movement, block rallies and ban political parties and organizations "in the interests of national security and public order.''
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy proposed introducing a nationwide state of emergency earlier on Wednesday as his country braces for a possible military offensive from Russia.
Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly voiced concern that Russia could try to destabilize Ukraine by relying on Moscow's supporters inside the country.
US President Joe Biden has sanctioned the makers of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that connects Russia and Germany.
"I have directed my administration to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers. These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine," Biden said in a statement.
The pipeline worth $11 billion was finished in September but has not begun operations.
On Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz halted the project's certification.
Germany can meet its energy needs without Russian gas, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Wednesday.
The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin was lit up in the Ukrainian colors of blue and yellow on Wednesday evening.
"We are showing our solidarity with the people of Ukraine, the many Berliners with Ukrainian roots but also with the many Russians who want peace in Russia and Ukraine," Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey said in a statement.
"They all want nothing more than an end to the escalation and a peaceful settlement to this threatening conflict," she added.
Authorities in Paris also projected Ukraine's national colors onto the French capital's City Hall to show their support.
A US defense official has told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "as ready as he can be" for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that 80% of the estimated 150,000-plus Russian forces along the Ukraine border are in "ready positions" — spread out in attack formation within a few kilometers of the frontier.
"We assess today that he is near 100% of all the forces that we anticipated that he would move in," they added, with the caveat that "we still cannot confirm that Russian military forces have moved into the Donbas areas."
Germany summoned the Russian ambassador to the Foreign Office in Berlin on Wednesday.
German news agency dpa reported that Foreign Office Political Director Tjorven Bellmann spoke to ambassador Sergey Nechaev about Russia's aggression against Ukraine. No further details were available.
Earlier, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called EU sanctions against Russia "a first step'' and warned more could follow.
Around 68% of Germans are against supplying weapons to Kyiv, a new survey conducted by the INSA Institute has found.
Roughly 22% said they would support such a move.
Additionally, around 43% of Germans favor hitting Russia with economic sanctions over Moscow's recognition of the self-proclaimed "People's Republics" of Luhansk and Donetsk. About a quarter of respondents said they favored diplomatic sanctions, and 7% said they favored military sanctions.
A little over half of the respondents said they would like to see former German Chancellor Angela Merkel act as a mediator in the current crisis. Most respondents said current Chancellor Olaf Scholz's response was "neither good nor bad," while around 43% of Germans said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's handling of the crisis was "quite bad."
Around 1,000 people were surveyed for the poll.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that the world is "facing a moment of peril."
He said it was time for "restraint, reason, and de-escalation," in dealing with the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
"If the conflict in Ukraine expands, the world could see a scale and severity of need unseen for many years," he said.
Guterres was speaking at the start of a General Assembly session on Ukraine.
He called Russia's decision to recognize the separatist-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as "independent states," a violation "of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."
"No one will be able to sit out this crisis if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin decides that he can move forward," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the UN meeting.
"Active diplomacy, strong political messages, tough economic sanctions and strengthening Ukraine can still force Moscow to abandon aggressive plans," he said.
Russia's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia warned the 193-member General Assembly that "no one intends to go softly, softly with any violators'' of the peace in those eastern areas of Ukraine.
Websites belonging to several Ukrainian government ministries and banks have been hit by an apparent cyberattack.
"Another mass DDoS attack on our state began. We have relevant data from a number of banks," said Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation.
Ukraine's government, Foreign Ministry and state security service websites were also not accessible on Wednesday.
A DDoS, or denial-of-service attack, overwhelms websites by sending a large number of requests at once, causing them to crash.
The online networks of Ukraine's Defense Ministry and two banks were overwhelmed last week in a separate cyberattack.
European leaders will hold an emergency summit on Thursday to discuss the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
"It is important that we continue to be united and determined and jointly define our collective approach and actions," EU Council chief Charles Michel said in a letter inviting EU leaders to Brussels.
"The use of force and coercion to change borders has no place in the 21st century," he added.
Europe has adopted its first sanctions package of financial penalties targeting top Russian government officials, several companies and hundreds of lawmakers who voted in favor of recognizing the independence of separatist-controlled parts of southeast Ukraine. It also banned trade with the two regions.
Former director of the CIA and retired general David Petraeus told DW that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the "greatest gift to NATO since the end of the Cold War."
"He set out to make Russia great again. What he's really done is make NATO great again by his actions. That threat has unified NATO in a way that it hasn't been again since the Wall came down, the Warsaw Pact in the Soviet Union dissolved."
He said the US could impose much stronger sanctions, including to "cut-off of Russia from the Swift financial transaction system," blocking critical high-technology exports, and penalizing more Russian elites and their family members.
He praised Germany for halting certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Petraeus said it was done "very prompt, very swift (and) very significant in particular for Chancellor Scholz to be the first one to announce this."
Russia has undertaken evacuations of its embassy in Kyiv, Russian state news agency Tass reported.
Previous evacuations of embassy personnel have been reported. On Wednesday, though, the Russian flag outside the embassy and the consulate in Odessa came down and police surrounded the embassy building.
On Tuesday, Russia's Foreign Ministry announced it planned to evacuate all diplomatic staff from Ukraine.
Last week, video circulated online that showed smoke rising from the Russian Embassy but only on Wednesday did Tass quote an embassy employee saying staff had burnt documents prior to their departure.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Turkey did not recognize the two regions of eastern Ukraine Russia has tried to claim as "independent," in violation of international law.
Turkey, a NATO member state that shares the Black Sea region with Russia and Ukraine, maintains ties with both nations and has offered to mediate in the past while warning against any intensified military conflict.
In a statement, the Turkish presidential administration said, "President Erdogan, who renewed his call for the matter to be resolved through dialogue, stated that it was important to bring diplomacy to the forefront, and that (Turkey) continued its constructive stance in NATO as well."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was joined in Kyiv by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and Polish President Andrzej Duda who signed a joint declaration in support of Ukraine's EU member candidate status, which is currently not on offer.
The three leaders presented a united front with all three nations previously under Moscow's thumb during the Cold War. They vowed to never recognize Ukrainian territories claimed by Russia or its proxies.
Zelenskyy said, "The future of European security is being decided right now."
He added Ukraine should receive security guarantees from Moscow.
"I believe that Russia should be among those countries that provide clear security guarantees. I have many times suggested that the president of Russia sit down at the negotiating table and speak," Zelenskyy said.
Duda said he hopes that current tensions with Russia will not lead to the outbreak of war, noting, "We believe that they pose a threat not only to Ukraine but to our entire region, to NATO's eastern flank and the EU as a whole."
Earlier Wednesday, Kyiv urged Western nations to impose more sanctions on Russia following a sweeping round of restrictions from the US and other Western nations targeting the economy and Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote in a tweet that more sanctions were necessary "to stop Putin from further aggression." Kuleba added: "Now the pressure needs to step up to stop Putin. Hit his economy and cronies."
The European Union foreign ministers agreed on a package of sanctions targeting individuals and entities that "undermine Ukrainian integrity," the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday.
Those sanctions moved one step closer to being finalized Wednesday as EU ambassadors agreed to the package. The full sanctions package is expected to be announced later Wednesday after final approval from foreign ministers.
In a preview of what form those sanctions may take, The Wall Street Journal reports EU sanctions will target Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm. Bloomberg adds the EU is also set to ban the purchase of Russian government bonds as well.
On Wednesday, US deputy treasury secretary Wally Adeyemo said the US is prepared to cut Putin's Russia off "from Western technology that's critical to advancing the military, cut him off from Western financial resources that will be critical for feeding his economy and also to enriching himself."
Western nations are using sanctions in part in response to a speech given by Putin on Monday that declared Russia had the right to seize Ukraine as part of the nation's "spiritual continuum" while also violating international law by declaring the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk "independent."
DW's Russia affairs analyst Konstantin Eggert said, "Eventually Putin will say that the newly recognized states need to have their full territory under control and then that means we will have a real confrontation, a real battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces is very much possible."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree Wednesday calling up reservists between the ages of 18 and 60, Ukraine's armed forces said in a statement.
The border guard in Ukraine also issued new restrictions prohibiting foreigners from accessing the border area at any time as well as restrictions on video and photo recordings of border guard installations amid fears an invasion could be imminent.
With nearly 200,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine's borders, Western countries are poised to throw down further sanctions should the US, UK and NATO warnings about an imminent invasion prove accurate.
DW's Nick Connolly in Kyiv said, "Definitely things are getting more nervous here."
In a video statement released to coincide with the annual Defender of the Fatherland Day, Putin said Russia would always put its national security first.
"Russia's interests and the security of our people are unconditional," he said. "We will continue to strengthen and modernize our army and navy."
Markus Ziener, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, told DW that Putin's speech earlier this week was "very disturbing."
Ziener said, "It looked like he is in a bubble. He is in a mindset that is not really allowing much more room to maneuver."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday evening that he called off a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov planned for Thursday, in another sign that an immediate diplomatic solution to the tensions in Ukraine is becoming less likely.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Blinken said he agreed to meet Lavrov on the condition that Russia not send troops into Ukrainian territory.
"Now that we see the invasion is beginning, and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy, it does not make sense to go forward with that meeting at this time," Blinken said.
However, Blinken said the US remains committed to diplomacy "if Moscow's approach changes."
He added that he would do anything to prevent "an even worse-case scenario, an all-out assault on all of Ukraine, including its capital."
"But we will not allow Russia to claim the pretense of diplomacy at the same time it accelerates its march down the path of conflict and war," Blinken said.
Blinken condemned Putin's speech on the recognition of eastern Ukraine's two separatist regions, calling it "deeply disturbing" and contending that Putin was "undoing more than 30 years' worth of painstaking diplomacy."
The White House on Tuesday said plans for a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Putin are currently off the table but added,
"We're never going to completely close the door to diplomacy."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the deployment of Russian troops to eastern Ukraine, and rejected Russia's characterization of the troops as "peacekeepers."
"When troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, they are not impartial peacekeepers, they are not peacekeepers at all," Guterres said on Tuesday while calling Russia's characterization a "perversion of the concept of peacekeeping."
The UN chief added that the world is facing "the biggest global peace and security crisis in recent years'' and called for de-escalation.
US imaging technology firm Maxar reported that satellite imagery over the past 24 hours showed more than 100 military vehicles and dozens of troop tents located in a small airfield outside the town of Mazy in southern Belarus near the border with Ukraine.
The firm also said heavy equipment transporters, used for moving tanks and artillery, were spotted in the city of Belgorod in western Russia near the Ukraine border.
According to Maxar, the images also showed a new field hospital had been added to a military garrison in western Russia.
Japan said Wednesday it will impose sanctions on Russia and individuals linked to eastern Ukraine's two self-proclaimed "people's republics."
Japan's measures include a ban on issuing visas to individuals linked to the two regions, as well as freezing their assets and barring trade. The sanctions also ban the issuing and trade of Russian government bonds in Japan.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia would impose sanctions on eight of Putin's top security advisors, including travel bans. Morrison said that this was "only the start of this process" and that subsequent rounds of sanctions are expected.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday a first round of sanctions on Russia. Trudeau said that his government will ban Canadians from financial dealings with Ukraine's separatist regions and ban Canadians from purchasing Russian sovereign debt.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday that Germany has taken steps to suspend the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia in response to the developments in Ukraine.
The move was made in consultation with the US, as part of a previous agreement the pipeline would not be activated if Russia "invaded" Ukraine.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden announced a "first tranche" of sanctions against Russia.
The sanctions target Russia's VEB and Promsvyazbank banks. Biden added that sanctions targeting Russia's sovereign debt are aimed at cutting off Russia's government from Western financing.
Also on Tuesday, Russian parliamentarians gave Putin permission to use military force outside the country, after Putin had sent a letter formally asking for approval for the use of military force.
The move formalizes a Russian military deployment to separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, a day after Putin recognized the independence of the two self-proclaimed "people's republics."
lo,ar,sdi/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)