The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
NEW YORK — Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow would consider any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine as “participation in the armed conflict.”
Speaking at a meeting with female pilots on Saturday, Putin said Russia would view “any move in this direction” as an intervention that “will pose a threat to our service members.”
“That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict, and it would not matter what members they are,” the Russian president said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pushed NATO to impose a no-fly zone over his country, warning that “all the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you.”
NATO has said a no-fly zone, which would bar all unauthorized aircraft from flying over Ukraine, could provoke widespread war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia.
HELSINKI, Finland — Finland and Sweden have pledged to further deepen defense cooperation, including with NATO. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin says that “Russia’s war against a European nation puts the European security order at risk.”
Finland and neighboring Sweden for years have resisted joining NATO, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine is changing the dynamic. Recent polls in both countries show more than 50% of Finns and Swedes in support of NATO membership but their governments are more cautious.
“It’s very understandable that the mindset of our citizens is changing due to Russia’s attack against Ukraine,” said Marin, but refused to comment on whether Finland would ask for a major non-NATO allied status, a designation given to countries with close strategic relationship with the U.S. military.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said cooperation with NATO is “maybe closer than ever” and that a rapprochement with NATO would be discussed.
NEW YORK — Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship carrier, has announced that it will halt all international flights except to Belarus starting March 8.
The move by Russia’s biggest state-owned airline comes after the country’s aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, recommended that all Russian airlines with foreign-leased planes halt both passenger and cargo flights abroad.
It cited a high risk of foreign-leased planes being impounded as part of Western sanctions that ban leasing of planes to Russia.
Rosaviatsiya’s recommendation doesn’t apply to Russian airlines that use Russian planes or foreign planes that aren’t at risk of being impounded.
It also doesn’t apply to foreign airlines from countries that have not imposed sanctions on Russia and have not shut down their airspace for Russian planes. Aeroflot’s statement Saturday cited “circumstances that hinder operating flights” as a reason for its move.
Aeroflot said it would cancel return tickets for passengers who are scheduled to depart Russia after March 6 and travel back after March 8. Those with one-way tickets will be allowed to fly up until March 8. Earlier this week, S7, Russia’s biggest private airline, announced that it was halting all international flights starting Saturday.
BERLIN — German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF say they are suspending reporting from their Moscow studios after Russia passed a law foreseeing prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading what is deemed to be fake information about its armed forces.
The measure was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on Friday and already prompted some foreign media including the BBC and Bloomberg to say they were suspending operations within Russia.
ARD and ZDF said in a statement that they are examining the consequences of the new legislation and suspending reporting from the Moscow studios for now.
The passing of the law comes amid a broader crackdown on media outlets and social media in Russia.
LVIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian president’s office says civilian evacuations have halted in an area of the country where Russian defense officials had announced a cease-fire.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said the evacuation effort was stopped because the city of Mariupol remained under fire on Saturday.
“The Russian side is not holding to the ceasefire and has continued firing on Mariupol itself and on its surrounding area,” he said. “Talks with the Russian Federation are ongoing regarding setting up a ceasefire and ensuring a safe humanitarian corridor.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier in a statement it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces for Mariupol, a strategic port in the southeast, and for the eastern city of Volnovakha.
But a city official reported that shelling continued in his area Saturday despite the deal, a sign of the fragility of efforts to stop fighting across the country.
RZESZOW, Poland — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine as the war enters its 10th day. Blinken arrived in Rzeszow on Saturday for talks with top Polish officials and was to visit a frontier post to meet Ukrainian refugees later in the day.
Blinken was meeting Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau a day after attending a NATO foreign minister’s meeting in Brussels at which the alliance pledged to step up support for eastern flank members like Poland to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although NATO has ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over non-member Ukraine, it has significantly boosted both military and humanitarian assistance. Rzeszow is about 80 km (50 miles) from the Ukrainian border and its airport has become a hub for flights carrying such aid.
MADRID — Spanish clothing giant Inditex has decided to “temporarily suspend” all its activity in Russia, including over 500 stores and its online sales.
In a statement to Spanish stock market regulator CNMV, the parent company of Zara, Massimo Dutti and other fashion chains says that “under the current circumstances it cannot guarantee the continuity of its operations and the commercial conditions in the Russian Federation.”
It added that the company will focus on developing “a special support plan” for the more than 9,000 people it employs in Russia.
Inditex said that Russia accounts for 8.5% of the group’s business. It said the move doesn’t significantly impact its investment there because all its Russian shops operate on rented premises.
Major western companies, including H&M, Apple, Mercedes-Benz and BP, have halted their sales or operations in Russia since the country started its invasion of Ukraine.
NEW YORK — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has defended Russia’s adoption of a law setting out prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading what is deemed to be fake information about its armed forces.
The measure was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on Friday and prompted some foreign media including the BBC and Bloomberg to say they were suspending operations within Russia.
Peskov told reporters the measure was justified on the grounds of an “information war which was unleashed against our country.” Asked how Russians could express opinions which don’t match the official government position, Peskov said “within the bounds of the law.”
The passing of the law comes amid a broader crackdown on media outlets and social media in Russia. Facebook and Twitter were both blocked Friday in Russia.
GENEVA — The International Organization for Migration says the number of people who have left Ukraine since fighting began has now reached 1.45 million.
The U.N. migration agency, citing figures from government ministries in countries where they have arrived, said Saturday that 787,300 of them went to Poland. Some 228,700 fled to Moldova, 144,700 to Hungary, 132,600 to Romania and 100,500 to Slovakia.
The IOM said that nationals of 138 countries have crossed Ukraine’s borders into neighboring nations.
ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman says the Turkish leader will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.
“This war must be stopped immediately and there must be a return to the negotiating table,” Ibrahim Kalin told broadcaster NTV in Istanbul. He said Saturday that “our president will talk to Putin tomorrow.”
NATO member Turkey has close ties to both Russia and Ukraine and has repeatedly offered to mediate between the two. It has invited the top diplomats of both countries to Turkey for talks next week.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that Russian Foreign Minister Seygey Lavrov had confirmed his attendance at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, to be held in the Mediterranean coastal city between March 11-13.
BERLIN — The German government says the country’s state-owned development bank has signed an agreement with Dutch gas company Gasunie and German energy company RWE to build a liquid natural gas import terminal.
The Economy Ministry said Saturday that the memorandum of understanding to build the LNG terminal in Brunsbuettel, on Germany’s North Sea coast, was signed Friday. It didn’t give financial details or a timeframe.
The terminal will be run by Gasunie, which is owned by the Dutch state, and Germany’s KfW development bank will have a 50% stake. The ministry said that, in the long term, the plan is to re-equip the terminal to import green hydrogen derivatives.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said last weekend that Germany will quickly build two LNG terminals, one in Brunsbuettel and the other in Wilhelmshaven. Germany wants to reduce its dependency on Russian gas following the attack on Ukraine.
ROME — Italian financial police have seized two Russian-owned superyachts moored in a Ligurian port after Italy’s foreign minister announced plans to sequester 140 million euros ($154 million) from Russian billionaires in Italy.
Foreign Minister Luigio Di Maio told Italian state TV Friday evening that “this is the only way to convince” Putin “to reason.”
Financial police in the port of Imperia immediately seized the 65-meter (215-foot) “Lady M,” with an estimated value of 65 million euros, owned by Alexei Mordashov, as well as the “Lena,” valued at 50 million euros and belonging to Gennady Timchenko. Other seizures were reportedly under way.
PARIS — The office of President Emmanuel Macron says France will soon propose concrete measures to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s five main nuclear sites.
The safeguards will be drawn up on the basis of International Atomic Energy Agency criteria, a statement from the French presidency said Saturday.
A Russian attack on a nuclear plant sparked a fire on Friday and briefly raised worldwide fears of a catastrophe. The statement said Macron is “extremely concerned about the risks to nuclear safety, security and the implementation of international safeguards resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Macron said Russia “must immediately cease its illegal and dangerous military actions” and allow Ukrainian authorities full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. He urged Russia to allow “free, regular and unhindered access for facility personnel to ensure their continued safe operation.”
KYIV, Ukraine — The Russian military will observe a ceasefire in two areas of Ukraine starting Saturday to allow civilians to evacuate, Russian state media reported, but there was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine. It would be the first breakthrough in allowing civilians to escape.
The Russian Defense Ministry statement carried by the RIA Novosti and Tass agencies said it has agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces to allow civilians to leave the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast and the eastern town of Volnovakha “from 10 a.m. Moscow time.” It was not immediately clear from the vaguely worded statement how long the routes would remain open.
The head of Ukraine’s security council, Oleksiy Danilov, had called on Russia to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women and the elderly to escape the fighting, calling such corridors “question No. 1.”
TOKYO — Thousands of people marched in Tokyo on Saturday protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The crowd shouted, “Stop war. Protect lives.” Some held signs that read: “We stand with Ukraine.” Others held images of Russian President Vladimir Putin with the words: “Stop Putin.”
Russia’s shelling of a nuclear plant in Ukraine on Friday and Putin’s implied threat of nuclear war have struck a nerve in Japan, which suffered atomic attacks at the end of World War II in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl in Fukushima in 2011.
“It’s too terrible,” said housewife Yukiko Asano, one of the protesters.
The protest, one of the largest in Tokyo in recent years, included people from Europe and spiraled through the fashionable Omotesando district, extending for blocks. Many wore yellow and blue, the colors of Ukraine’s flag. Organizers said about 4,000 people took part.
“We need to stop Putin. We need to end the dictatorship,” said a Russian software engineer, who asked to be identified only by his first name Egor to avoid backlash. “This kind of situation is a way to nowhere.”
LOS ANGELES — SpaceX founder Elon Musk says the company’s Starlink satellite internet service was “told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources.”
“We will not do so unless at gunpoint. Sorry to be a free speech absolutist,” Musk said in a post on Twitter.
Earlier this week, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation thanked Musk for providing equipment to Starlink.
Mykhailo Fedorov thanked SpaceX founder Elon Musk for the equipment in a Twitter post accompanied by a photo of boxes on the back of a truck. Federov had publicly requested the service.
Musk replied with his own tweet saying: “You are most welcome.”
The tech billionaire has said Starlink was “active” in Ukraine and more equipment to use it was on the way.
Starlink is a satellite-based internet system that SpaceX has been building for years to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world. It markets itself as “ideally suited” for areas where internet service is unreliable or unavailable.
SINGAPORE — Singapore has announced sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, becoming one of the few governments in Southeast Asia to do so.
“The sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of all countries, big and small, must be respected,” said an announcement by the Foreign Ministry.
The tiny city-state imposed controls on exports or transshipments of military-related or dual use items considered “strategic goods.” It said the sanctions were aimed at constraining Russia’s ability to wage war and engage in “cyber aggression.”
The regional commercial hub also said it would prohibit all financial institutions from doing business with four Russian banks: VTB Bank, Bank Rossiya, the Promsvyazbank Public Joint Stock Co., and the Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank. Companies with existing dealings with the four must freeze their assets, it said.
The order also bans providing financial services or enabling financing for the Russian central bank, Russian government and entities owned or controlled by them.
Follow AP’s coverage of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine