Russia has announced a ceasefire in the cities of Volnovakha and the strategic port of Mariupol, which have been under heavy attack. On Saturday, state news agencies ran a statement from the defense force that Russian forces would stop firing at 10:00 Moscow time, to allow humanitarian corridors out of the Ukrainian cities.
There has not yet been confirmation from Ukrainian forces. It is also not clear from Russia’s statement how long the corridors would stay open.
Both cities have been under heavy bombardment. The mayor of Mariupol had been pleading on Friday for humanitarian corridors to allow people to flee and bring in food and medical supplies. Mariupol has had no water, heat or electricity and is running out of food after coming under attack by Russian forces for the past five days, the mayor said. In Volnovakha, the attack has been so intense that dead bodies lie uncollected, those trapped in shelters are running out of supplies, and 90% of buildings are damaged or destroyed, local MP Dmytro Lubinets said.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskiy said NATO had given the “green light for further bombing of Ukraine” by ruling out a no-fly zone. Zelenskiy criticized NATO for refusing to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying “All the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you, because of your weakness, because of your lack of unity”.
NATO warned on Friday that imposing a no-fly zone could provoke full-fledged war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia. “The only way to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO fighter planes into Ukraine’s airspace, and then impose that no-fly zone by shooting down Russian planes,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said. NATO foreign ministers discussed a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine but agreed that NATO planes should not operate over Ukrainian airspace, Stoltenberg said.
Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, was seized by Russian forces on Friday, after an attack that started a fire close to one of its six reactors. No release of radiation was reported, but Ukrainian officials said workers had not been able to check all the safety infrastructure in the wake of the attack.
An emergency summit of the UN security council was summoned after the attack on the Zaporizhzhia power plant. The US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the world narrowly averted a “nuclear catastrophe” and condemned Russia’s actions as “reckless” and “dangerous”. The US embassy in Ukraine says the attack on the nuclear plant is a war crime.
Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced a series of new laws cracking down on the free press. Putin signed a bill into law that introduces jail terms of up to 15 years for people publishing “false information” about the Russian army as Russia moves forward with its invasion of Ukraine.
Many outlets are ceasing Russian operations or removing coverage as a result. The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg and CBC have all announced they are suspending either operations or broadcasts in the country, saying the law “criminalizes independent reporting in the country”. Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper said it will remove material on Russia’s military actions in Ukraine from its website.
Russian state media regulators banned access to Twitter and Facebook. Russian state media regulator Roskomnadzor has restricted access to Twitter, and the country has blocked Facebook across the country.
Putin also signed a bill that would allow fines or jail terms of up to three years for calling for sanctions against Russia. The past year has seen an increasingly harsh crackdown on independent and critical voices in Russia, that only intensified after the start of the invasion.
Seven people were killed, including two children, after a Russian airstrike hit a rural residential area in the Kyiv region on Friday, Ukrainian police said. Police said the strike hit the village of Markhalivka, about 6 miles from the south-western outskirts of the Ukrainian capital.
More than 1.2 million people have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on 24 February, the UN said, including about half a million children.