Websites of Ukrainian government agencies and banks targeted again by cyberattack

Talks between Kyiv and Moscow ended without a breakthrough as Russian troops moved closer to the Ukrainian capital and other major cities in the face of deepening international isolation following the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by the Kremlin last week.

Reports that Russian artillery on February 28 had residential neighborhoods bombed from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, dampened much of the optimism generated by an agreement between the two sides to hold a second round of talks in the coming days.

Five days after Russia invaded its neighbor, the Ukrainian side came to the meeting demanding an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops.

But after nearly five hours of talks, Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, said the two sides “agreed to continue negotiations”, adding that the new meeting will take place on the Polish-Belarusian border.

WATCH: Witnesses say a rocket blast set fire to a building in the early morning hours of February 28 in the northern Ukrainian town of Chernihiv, near the border with Belarus.

Shortly before the talks broke down, Putin laid out his preconditions for ending the war in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron. Putin told Macron that a settlement was only possible if Kyiv was neutral and Russian control over Crimea was formally recognized – demands that Kyiv has previously rejected.

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The talks came as European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Russia’s military campaign is “getting more and more ruthless”.

Satellite images from the Maxar company appeared to show a 25-kilometer convoy of hundreds of Russian armored vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles just 25 kilometers from central Kiev.

Borrell told reporters that Ukraine’s armed forces were fighting back bravely, but said there were many civilian casualties and “the flow of people seeking shelter, fleeing war, is increasing.”

In this situation, our support for the Ukrainian armed forces is crucial,” Borrell told a press conference in Brussels after a meeting of EU defense ministers, who discussed providing hundreds of millions of dollars. military aid to Ukraine.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Russian soldiers encountered resistance they hadn’t expected, putting them “late” in their attack, but he said Russia had not again sent all his forces into the country.

In a new address on February 28, Zelenskiy appealed to invading Russian soldiers to lay down their arms.

“Drop your equipment. Get out of here. Don’t believe your commanders. Don’t believe your propagandists. Just save your lives,” Zelenskiy said in his speech, adding that more than 4,500 Russian soldiers had already lost their lives of the war. The Kremlin assault.

There have been no confirmed independent casualty figures. The Russian army admitted on February 27 for the first time that some of its soldiers had been “killed and wounded”, but gave no figures or further details.

Zelenskiy also said it was time to consider imposing a no-fly zone for Russian missiles, planes and helicopters in response to the Russian bombardment of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

In a video address, Zelenskiy did not specify how and by whom a no-fly zone would be enforced. He said Russia had launched 56 rocket strikes and fired 113 cruise missiles against Ukraine in the past five days.

Anton Herashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said dozens of people were killed in rocket attacks by Russian forces on Kharkiv on February 28.

“Kharkiv has just been massively fired upon by graduates (rockets). Dozens dead and hundreds wounded,” he added. said in a post on Facebook which showed a series of explosions in the city.

Elsewhere, witnesses said a rocket blast set fire to a building in the early morning hours of February 28 in the northern Ukrainian town of Chernihiv, near the border with Belarus. Residents blamed the Russian military for the attack.

As fighting on the ground intensifies, Western allies have stepped up efforts to punish Russia by closing airspace to Russian aircraft, barring some banks from the SWIFT financial network and limiting Moscow’s ability to deploy its 630 billions of dollars in foreign exchange reserves, all measures expected. to hammer the economy.

February 28, Washington adopted new measuressaying he would start blocking Americans from executing any trades with Russia’s central bank, which has more than doubled its key interest rate to 20% as it scrambles to access currency with the ruble falling free.

The new sanctions also ban dealings with Russia’s finance ministry and national wealth fund, a US official says, while the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a key Russian sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund. , its management company and its managing director, Kirill Dmitriev, considered a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

To maintain diplomatic pressure, US President Joe Biden hosted a call with allies and partners on February 28 to further coordinate a united response, the White House said.

In Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey was using its legal right to enforce the Montreux Convention, preventing warships from crossing key Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits and entering the Black Sea . He said he hoped the move would prevent the situation from getting any worse.

With reports from Reuters, AP, AFP, RIA Novosti and TASS

Ashley C. Reynolds