This article was last updated at 15:45 UTC/GMT
Several independent online news outlets on Sunday were blocked or forced to shut down in Russia due to new repressive laws.
The Russian news site Mediazona, which covers the police and justice system, said that it had been told to delete its website.
“We were prepared for this. In recent days, military censorship has been effectively introduced in Russia, and there are almost no independent media left in the country. We understand all our risks, but we continue to work — this is our duty to our readers and to ourselves,” Mediazona said in a statement.
The new law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, criminalizes what the Kremlin considers to be “fake” reports, with those found guilty facing up to 15 years in prison.
Russian authorities have repeatedly denied reports of civilian casualties in Ukraine and have even claimed attacks on residential areas were carried out by the Ukrainians themselves.
Even Novaya Gazeta, whose editor-in-chief Dimitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, has said it has also had to stop reporting on the war.
People took to the streets in major Russian cities on Sunday to call for an end to the war in Ukraine despite thousands of arrests and increasing threats from the Kremlin.
The Anti-Corruption Foundation, the non-profit organization set up by jailed activist Alexei Navalny, shared videos of protests in Saint Petersburg and Moscow on social media.
Russian authorities have tried to repress anti-war sentiment in the country as well as reports of Russian losses, which they have branded as “fake news.”
Police have also been arresting thousands of people at the anti-war demonstrations. The independent Russian human rights group OVD-Info has been keeping a tally of the number of arrests which on Sunday surpassed 10,000, according to their count, but this figure cannot be independently verified.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said reports that Russia has deliberately targeted civilians, and thus has committed war crimes, are “very credible.”
“We’ve seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which would constitute a war crime,” Blinken told CNN.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen followed suit, calling for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russian forces.
“I think there needs to be a strong and clear investigation on this question,” von der Leyen told CNN, according to Reuters.
Blinken has been visiting NATO member states in Eastern Europe that have been receiving Ukrainian refugees. He spoke on Sunday from Moldova, a former Soviet state that is neither part of NATO nor the EU.
Blinken also told CNN that he has been discussing the option of ceasing imports of Russian oil with his European partners.
“We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil in world markets, he said.
“That’s a very active discussion as we speak.”
The second attempt at a cease-fire at the Ukrainian coastal city of Mariupol for the evacuation of civilians has failed, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Telegram.
“The second attempt at a humanitarian corridor for civilians in Mariupol ended again with bombardment from the Russians,” he wrote.
A reporter for the German broadcaster ZDF, Katrin Eigendorf, confirmed the report. “The announced cease-fire, that was supposed to allow people to be evacuated from Mariupol, has failed,” she said. “They have opened fire again — against civilians.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also said civilian safe passage from Mariupol has been “halted.”
“Amid devastating scenes of human suffering in Mariupol, a second attempt to start evacuating an estimated 200,000 people out of the city came to a halt,” the ICRC said in a statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a call with French President Emmanuel Macron, blamed the Ukrainian government for the failed evacuations.
An earlier report from Russian news sources, citing Russian-backed separatists, had claimed that some 300 people had been evacuated during the ceasefire.
Russian forces have surrounded the city and the civilians trapped there are facing a lack of water, food, heating and electricity.
Anti-war protesters in Berlin have begun marching through the German capital under the motto “Stop Putin — Stop the War.”
The demonstration was organized by Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, German and other activist groups, local newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported.
Berlin saw vast numbers of people take to the streets last weekend in protest against the Russian invasion, with some reports putting the number of participants at half a million people.
DW’s Matthew Moore spoke to protesters in Berlin.
One person said that she felt “bad for being here” since her family and friends are still back in Ukraine, she added that the Ukrainian people know “they are not alone.”
DW’s Teri Schulz was at a similar protest in Belgium where marchers were calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something that NATO has already ruled out.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the civilian airport of the central-western regional capital of Vinnytsia has been devastated by Russian rockets.
“I have just been informed about a missile strike on Vinnytsia. Eight rockets … The airport was completely destroyed,” he said.
Earlier, there had been reports that emergency services were trying to extinguish fires at the airport.
Pope Francis has called for an end to the fighting in Ukraine, saying that “there are rivers of blood and tears flowing” in the country.
“This is not just a military operation, but a war that sows death, destruction and suffering,” Francis told worshippers in St Peter’s Square in Rome, thus challenging Russia’s claim that its invasion of Ukraine is a mere “special mission.” However, as he has failed to do in all the 11 days of the conflict so far, he did not condemn Russia by name for its assault.
Francis also said he had sent two cardinals to Ukraine, saying that “the Holy See is willing to do everything to put itself in service for peace.”
The two are Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almsgiver, who has been dispatched with aid, and Cardinal Michael Czerny, who is head of the papal office that deals with migration, charity, justice and peace.
Turkish state news agency Anadolu on Sunday reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for urgent steps to be taken to ensure a ceasefire.
Erdogan is reported to have said this during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Turkish president is also reported to have called for the opening of a humanitarian corridor and a peace agreement to be signed.
According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Putin said that the operation “is going according to plan and in accordance with the schedule.”
The statement went on to say that there was willingness from Russia to have dialogue with Ukrainian authorities, and called for a “more constructive approach” from Kyiv.
More than 1,000 people protesting at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine were detained at protests on Sunday in 29 cities across Russia, an independent Russian-based group monitoring protests said.
OVD-Info said some of these arrests took place in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok and the Siberian city of Irkutsk.
It said that as of 1140 UTC, at least 9,478 protesters had been arrested since the invasion began on February 24.
Russia has harsh anti-protest legislation entailing high penalties for offenders.
So far, this fact and Moscow’s growing censorship of international media outlets challenging the Kremlin’s narrative of a legitimate military action have meant that anti-war protests in Russia have not reached the dimensions of those in many other countries. However, protests have nonetheless have been taking place regularly across the nation.
The Interior Ministry warned on Saturday that any attempt to hold unauthorized rallies would be prevented and the organizers held liable.
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has called for daily protests in Russia and across the world against the invasion.
Russian gas is still flowing through pipelines that run through Ukraine and into central Europe, the state-owned company Gazprom said on Sunday according to Russian news agency Interfax.
Over 100 million cubic meters of gas is expected to flow on Sunday.
“Gazprom fulfills the supply of Russian gas for transit through the territory of Ukraine at the usual capacity and according to the requirements of European consumers,” company spokesperson Sergei Kupriyanov was quoted as saying.
Despite the raft of sanctions aimed at the Russian economy, European countries continue to buy their gas from Moscow, even fearing that the Kremlin may turn off the tap in retaliation.
Other gas pipelines that supply Ukraine have been damaged, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without access.
Shortly after Russia launched its invasion, Germany canceled the controversial Nord Line 2 pipeline that was set to pump more gas directly into Germany, bypassing Ukraine and other countries.
Berlin also said it would speed up its detachment from relying on Russian fossil fuels.
Russia has built a new pipeline to avoid its natural gas transiting through Ukraine, but the project has been shelved
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that Russian forces were preparing to bombard the major port city of Odesa.
“This is going to be a military crime. This is going to be a historic crime,” he said in a televised address.
Russian troops entering Ukraine from the Crimean peninsula — territory occupied by Russia since 2014 — have advanced along the coast, having taken control of Kherson and laid siege to other coastal cities, but so far Odesa has largely been spared.
The population of Odesa is close to 1 million people, including both Ukrainian and Russian speakers as well as sizeable Bulgarian and Jewish minorities. It has also been a hotspot for Russian tourists.
“Russians have always come to Odessa. They have always felt only warmth in Odessa. Only sincerity. And now what?” Zelenskyy said in his address.
The number of refugees who have crossed the border from Ukraine into neighboring countries has surpassed 1.5 million, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Twitter.
The number of refugees has risen rapidly in the first 10 days of the conflict. Grandi said it is “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”
People fleeing the invasion have crossed into various countries, with the majority entering EU member state Poland. Warsaw says that almost 800,000 people have arrived since the beginning of the conflict.
Moldova, which shares a large border with Ukraine but is not an EU member state, said that 250,000 people, including 30,000 children, had crossed into the country and that it needed urgent international assistance to support them.
Greece also said on Sunday that some 3,700 people had arrived in the country from Ukraine. Around 100,000 ethnic Greeks live in Ukraine and Athens has pledged extra support to evacuate them. Many Ukrainians also moved to Greece after the fall of the Soviet Union and many of the new arrivals were reportedly staying with relatives, dpa new agency reported
Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday that opponents of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine will have to show “strategic stamina” if they want Russian President Vladimir Putin to fail.
“Our mission with our allies is to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine, and it’s going to take some time — we’re talking about months, if not years,” he told UK broadcaster Sky News.
When asked about Putin’s seeming veiled threat of possibly using nuclear weapons, Raab said, “(Putin’s) got a track record as long as anyone’s arm of misinformation and propaganda … this is a distraction from what the real issues are at hand — which is that it’s an illegal invasion and it is not going according to plan.”
Just under a week ago, Putin ordered his military to put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert. It remains unclear exactly what this means on the ground and is seen by many as the response of a leader frustrated at the progress of his military plans amid strong Ukrainian resistance.
The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces has put the number of Russian troops killed so far at 11,000. The number stood at 10,000 on Saturday, the military said. DW is unable to verify those figures.
Russian authorities on Wednesday claimed that a much lower number of soldiers had been killed in the invasion — fewer than 500.
On the 11th day of the war, Russian gains include the key city of Kherson in the south. Russian forces have also surrounded the cities of Kharkiv — Ukraine’s second-largest city, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy. But these remain largely or partly in Ukrainian hands.
A mileslong convoy of Russian troops and equipment that had been headed to the capital Kyiv is still blocked on the highway, according to recent reports.
Ukraine’s main port city Odesa is also still under Ukrainian control, with local forces holding out against Russian ships in the Black Sea.
The dpa news agency cited the Defense Ministry in Moscow as saying that Russian troops and separatist rebels from Luhansk and Donetsk had advanced some 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) and taken control of five towns and villages.
The city council of Mariupol, the port city close to Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, has announced a new cease-fire with the Russian forces currently surrounding the city.
The planned pause in hostilities will last from 12 p.m. local time (1000 UTC) until 9 p.m on Sunday. The authorities are hoping to evacuate the 400,000 people who are trapped in the city without access to food, water and heating.
The announced cease-fire follows a failed attempt on Saturday that was abandoned after both the Ukrainians and Russians accused each other of violations during the agreed period.
The World Health Organization confirmed several attacks on health care centers in Ukraine, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted on Sunday.
The attacks led to multiple deaths and injuries, he added.
Ghebreyesus said that they were investigating other similar reports and condemned the attacks on health care facilities and workers, saying they ”breach medical neutrality and are violations of international humanitarian law.”
Airstrikes and fighting continued in Ukraine on Sunday amid Russia’s invasion, with the Ukrainian military reporting “fierce battles” with Russian troops around the southern city of Mykolaiv.
The city is important strategically, as it controls the road to the key Black Sea city of Odesa.
This comes as Russia reported that it had destroyed Ukraine’s Starokostiantyniv military air-base with long-range weapons. The report has not been verified.
Fighting is also continuing for the northern city of Chernihiv, while an expected Russian advance on Kyiv has reportedly been preceded by airstrikes on the towns of Bucha and Irpin that have forced civilians to flee.
The situation in the Black Sea city of Mariupol, which is now without water or power amid Russian shelling, has meanwhile been called “catastrophic” by the organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Officials in the city said they had to delay the evacuation of civilians on Saturday after an agreed cease-fire broke down, but Moscow has contradicted their version of events, saying that it was Ukrainian “nationalists” preventing the civilians leaving.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is back in Israel after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that took place “with the blessing” of the US Biden administration, according to Bennett’s office.
Bennett, whose country has been striving to maintain good relations with both Russia and Ukraine despite Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor, spoke with the Kremlin leader for three hours. No details of their conversation have been released
He then spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy before flying on to Germany to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“We continue to dialogue,” the Ukrainian leader tweeted after his talk with Bennett.
After his return, Bennett said his country would continue negotiating with Russia even though he held out little chance of success.
“We will continue to assist wherever this is requested, even if the chances are not great,” he said in televised remarks. “The moment there is even a small opening, and we have the access to all sides and the capability, I see it as a moral duty to make every attempt.”
Ukraine has asked Israel to act as an intermediary between Kyiv and Moscow, as the country has good relations with both governments.
Israel tries to maintain good ties with Russia partly to ensure that warplanes from the two countries do not come into conflict in Syria. However, it has also delivered humanitarian aid to Ukraine, though no weapons.
Russia has been attacking several populated areas in response to a Ukrainian resistance that is stronger than Moscow expected, British military intelligence said.
According to an update on Sunday, “the scale and strength of Ukrainian resistance continue to surprise Russia,” with Russian forces responding by targeting “populated areas in multiple locations, including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol.”
Ukrainian media have said blasts were heard overnight in Kharkiv, the second-largest city.
The update compared Russia’s tactics with those it used in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016. Civilian areas in both countries suffered widespread devastation from aerial and artillery attacks.
The report contradicts Moscow’s repeated assertions that it is not targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.
It also said that Ukrainian attacks on supply lines were slowing the Russian advance.
A majority of Germans would like to see former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder barred from his party, the ruling Social Democrats (SPD), for his connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin and leading positions at Russian energy firms.
A survey by the Insa polling institute carried out for the Sunday tabloid Bild am Sonntag showed that 74% of respondents overall wanted Schröder thrown out — a figure that rose to 82% among SPD voters.
A total of 75% (or 79% of SPD voters) want Schröder’s pension and expenses from his time as chancellor to be canceled if he does not give up his jobs in Russian firms.
Schröder’s friendship with Putin goes back many years; this picture was taken in 2005
Schröder is head of the supervisory board of the Russian state energy company Rosneft and also holds leading positions in the now shelved Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
Many people in Germany still remember a 2004 interview in which Schröder was asked whether Putin was a “flawless democrat.” The former chancellor responded: “Yes, I’m convinced that he is.”
Senior US officials traveled to Venezuela on Saturday to meet with the government of Nicolas Maduro, The New York Times reported.
The trip marks the first high-level visit by US officials to Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, in years, as Washington steps up efforts to isolate Russia on the world stage.
The US cut diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 2019 after accusing Maduro of electoral fraud.
Some in the US believe Venezuela could potentially become a security threat given its close ties to Russia.
The New York Times also reported that some Republican officials have been involved in talks with Venezuelans to restart the oil trade between the two countries. Such a move could reduce US oil imports from Russia.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Berlin on Saturday evening, German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.
The 90-minute conversation between the leaders focused on Bennett’s talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Saturday, Hebestreit said in a statement.
The goal remains to end the war in Ukraine as quickly as possible, Hebestreit added.
Bennett met Putin in Moscow on Saturday, after having coordinated the meeting with the United States, France and Germany, according to an Israeli official.
Israel, at the behest of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has offered to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, though officials have played down expectations of any major breakthrough.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) suspended operations in Russia after local tax authorities initiated bankruptcy proceedings against the US-funded broadcaster’s Russian entity on Thursday and police intensified pressure on its journalists, RFE/RL said in a statement.
“It is with the deepest regret that I announce the suspension of our physical operations in Moscow today. This is not a decision that RFE/RL has taken of its own accord, but one that has been forced upon us by the Putin regime’s assault on the truth,” RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly said in the statement.
“Following years of threats, intimidation and harassment of our journalists, the Kremlin, desperate to prevent Russian citizens from knowing the truth about its illegal war in Ukraine, is now branding honest journalists as traitors to the Russian state,” Fly added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that he spoke on the phone with US President Joe Biden on Sunday.
“As part of the constant dialogue, I had another conversation with @POTUS,” Zelensky said.”The agenda included the issues of security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia.”
In an interview for the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said Germany will take in refugees from Ukraine regardless of their nationality.
“We want to save lives. That doesn’t depend on the passport,” Faeser said.
“The vast majority of those who fled are Ukrainian nationals. People from other countries who already had a permanent right of residence in Ukraine bring this status with them,” Faeser explained.
“They don’t have to go through a complex asylum procedure either.”
Faeser described European cooperation in helping refugees from Ukraine as “historic.”
The minister’s statement came amid reports, including from the United Nations, that non-white people have faced racist and xenophobic treatment while trying to flee Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians to drive Russian troops out of the country.
“We have to go outside! We have to fight! Whenever there is an opportunity,” Zelensky said in a video message.
Zelensky added that ordinary, unarmed people had opposed Russian units in several cities, including the southern port city of Kherson. He said it was important to prevent the establishment of more pro-Russian so-called “people’s republics” on Ukrainian territory similar to the two currently self-declared in eastern Ukraine.
Addressing the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Zelenskyy said that if Russians “have not erased you memory through propaganda, if your eyes are not closed in fear – fight, for your rights, you freedom, for Ukraine.”
Russia said it resumed attacks on the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha after having accused Ukraine of breaking the cease-fire deal. Ukraine claimed that Russian shelling had not stopped after the cease-fire was announced.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukrainian forces of sabotaging the cease-fire effort, claiming that the actions of Ukraine’s leadership called into question the future of the country’s statehood.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with the US lawmakers over Zoom, calling for them to support a no-fly zone over Ukraine and making a “desperate plea” for the US to send more planes.
Over 1.3 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began at the end of last month.
Credit card companies Visa and MasterCard announced separately that they were suspending operations in Russia.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, offering to mediate to end the war.
Residents in the besieged port city of Mariupol say they are running out of water and have no more electricity or gas. City officials were forced to postpone the planned evacuation of civilians along a humanitarian corridor after Russia violated the agreed upon cease-fire on Saturday.
“We are simply being destroyed,” said Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko in a televised broadcast ahead of the planned cease-fire. After five days of bombardment from Russian troops, city officials had hoped to evacuate some of the 400,000 residents and create a safe corridor to bring in much-needed food and medicine.
The town of Volnovakha, which has around 20,000 inhabitants, was badly hit by Russian forces. Located some 60 kilometers (37 miles) inland from Mariupol, the town has been under attack from the advancing Russian army and pro-Russian separatists in the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk. (Editor’s note: This picture was made available by the Russian state agency TASS via German press agency dpa.)
Early Saturday morning, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced a temporary cease-fire to allow civilians from both cities to escape along humanitarian corridors. But authorities from Mariupol said Russian troops were not respecting the cease-fire and called off the evacuation.
The heavy onslaught of Russian bombs has driven the residents of Mariupol to flee their homes and seek shelter in improvised bunkers. The strategically important port city has managed to hold off the Russian army, but its population is in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
The city’s critical infrastructure has been heavily hit. Sergei Orlov, the deputy mayor of Mariupol, has accused Russian forces of attacking schools and hospitals.
Mariupol is located near the former border between pro-Russian separatists in the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk and the Ukrainian army. Taking the port city would allow Russian troops to join forces with units from Crimea and Donbas.
tj, ab,sdi/mm (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)