As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, a plethora of international sports organizations and governing bodies have also responded by targeting Russia and its athletes with sanctions of varying severity, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has been stripped of multiple honorary sporting titles.
Notably Russian and Belarusian athletes were not allowed to compete at the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also announced that it had withdrawn the Olympic Order — the highest award of the Olympic movement — from Putin.
Meanwhile, world football’s governing body, FIFA, and European soccer body, UEFA, have suspended all Russian international and club teams from their competitions “until further notice.”
“Vladimir Putin has been passionate about both sports and using sport to project Russia’s importance on the world stage and giving back to the Russian people a sense of pride in their success on the world stage,” Michael Payne, former head of marketing at the IOC, told CNN.
Payne added that the most immediate impact of sanctions could be to challenge the Kremlin’s narrative on the conflict.
There can be no misunderstanding: no amount of control of the Russian media is able to explain what’s going on in the sports world, that they’ve suddenly been banished,” Payne said.
“Sanctions may cause ordinary Russians to ask why can’t they see their Russian athletes performing? And clearly, then there’s prompting the Russian people to say ‘What’s going on?'” Payne added.
”Will Putin care about having to give his Olympic gold order back or what the rest of the international world thinks of him? Probably not.
“Will he care about what all the local Russians are saying, ‘Hang on, what is going on?’ Absolutely.”
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Russia said Saturday it was ready to work again with the United States on security issues and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
“If the Americans are ready for this, we will, of course, be able to resume dialogue and are determined to do so, as well as to work on the START, where there is also a certain pause,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Channel One, state media RIA Novosti reported.
“It all depends on Washington,” he added.
According to Ryabkov, Russia did not stop dialogue with the US. “We have not withdrawn from the US strategic stability dialogue. It has been suspended by Washington, apparently under the illusion that we need this dialogue more than Washington. Absolutely not,” Ryabkov said.
Ryabkov added that Russia has prepared a list of retaliatory personal sanctions against the US and the West that will be made public soon.
Some background: The landmark treaty was first signed for a period of 10 years by former US President Barack Obama and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010. It took effect on February 5, 2011.
START limits the number of strategic offensive weapons both countries can have. The treaty limits each side to no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and heavy bombers; no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and heavy bombers for nuclear armaments; and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers.
Russian forces are moving closer to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and stepping up their assault on other key cities on day 17 of their unprovoked invasion of the country. Here are the latest developments:
Noose tightens on Kyiv: CNN teams in Kyiv reported hearing explosions in the early hours of Saturday, as the capital comes under pressure. The bulk of Russian ground forces are about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from Kyiv’s center, according to British defense officials. Russian strikes continue to hit civilian structures: A landmark hotel in the northern city of Chernihiv was reduced to rubble overnight as well as the local electricity network.
Attack on key cities: CNN journalists in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro felt at least two explosions and saw what looked like the remnants of anti-aircraft fire early Saturday. The cities of Kharkhiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Sumy are also under a sustained Russian onslaught. This comes as Russian forces expanded their offensive to the west of Ukraine for the first time on Friday, with strikes targeting military airfields, including one in Vasylkiv, south of Kyiv, on Saturday. To the east, there’s growing evidence that the town of Volnovakha has fallen to Russian forces and their allies in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. The southern city of Kherson appears to have been captured, according to US defense intelligence.
Anger mounts over mayor’s arrest: Several hundred protesters swarmed the city hall in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol on Saturday after the arrest of its mayor Ivan Fedorov by Russian forces the day before. The Russian-backed Luhansk regional prosecutor claimed he had committed terrorism offenses but Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called Fedorov’s detention a “crime against democracy.”
Chernobyl power: Technicians are working to repair damaged power lines to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to the UN’s nuclear watchdog. Ukrainian authorities said the lines were entirely cut this week due to Russian shelling. The plant, which has been relying on diesel generators for backup power since Wednesday, is under Russian control with more than 200 staff effectively living and working there under difficult conditions.
Biden’s warning: US President Joe Biden warned Friday that Russia would pay a “severe price” if it uses chemical weapons, but reiterated the US will not send ground troops to Ukraine. “We will not fight the third world war in Ukraine,” Biden said — adding the US would help provide weapons, money and food aid for the country instead.
The human toll: At least 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine, the UN said Friday. The UN recorded 1,546 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of Friday, including 564 killed and 982 injured — though they estimate the real number is much higher.
A dehydrated German shepherd stands on Jakub Kotowicz’s operation table, her tumor protruding from one of her mammary glands.
Named Moon by the staff at the ADA foundation — a no-kill animal shelter in Przemysl, Poland, just 30 minutes from the border with Ukraine — she’s one of the many animals that have been displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We have to remove this tumor so she will need to have surgery,” Dr. Kotowicz says as he pets Moon’s head. “I hate to see them suffering like this.”
In recent days, ADA Foundation staff members have been risking their lives driving into Ukraine to help empty out shelters, where animals are in danger of being abandoned and then starving to death as war surrounds them.
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Russian missile and air strikes caused damage to the north and south of the Ukrainian capital in the early hours of Saturday, according to local officials.
In Chernihiv, some 100 kilometers north of Kyiv, the hotel Ukraine — a landmark in the city — was hit overnight.
“I am here now. There is no hotel anymore,” Vyacheslav Chaus, head of Chernihiv region administration, said Saturday.
The enemy continues to launch air and missile strikes on the city of Chernihiv. Civilians are dying, many people are being injured. The enemy shells civilian infrastructure, where there is no military,” he said.
Chernihiv has been surrounded by Russian forces for more than a week and video from the city shows widespread damage from missiles and airstrikes.
Chaus added that the city has “no electricity, almost no water, gas, and heat,” and while efforts to restore electricity on Friday were successful “the enemy hit an electricity network again.”
Social media video from Vasylkiv, south of Kyiv, showed a fuel dump on fire after a strike in the early hours of Saturday, and the military airfield there appears to have been heavily damaged.
Nataliia Balasynovych, the town’s mayor, said on Facebook: “Today at about 7 a.m. enemy forces shelled the city of Vasylkiv. Eight missiles hit, shelled the airport. As a result of the missile strikes, the airport was completely destroyed, the runway was destroyed.”
She added that an “ammunition depot also detonated. Ammunition is still detonating because one of the missiles hit the ammunition depot. The warehouse with fuels and lubricants was also destroyed. As a result, the capacity of our airport has been completely eliminated.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense had said earlier that a high-precision long-range weapon struck the military airfield in Vasylkiv.
A pregnant woman, whose rescue from the Mariupol maternity hospital this week was captured in a viral AP photo, has given birth to a baby girl, her family confirmed to CNN.
Mariana Vishegirskaya was among a number of women at the Mariupol maternity hospital who survived the shelling.
She delivered her baby in another hospital on Thursday, her aunt Tatiana Liubchenko said. “According to our conversations this [Friday] morning, Marianna was doing well and they named her daughter Veronica,” Liubchenko said.
They called around 10 am [Friday]. Last night, she gave birth at 10:30 pm and the baby was born healthy and around 3 kg, but there was no electricity,” Liubchenko said.
Vishegirskaya’s aunt worries about the deteriorating conditions in the besieged city of Mariupol. “But we got the information that the water and food of the people there are running out and we are very worried, because the green corridor is not opened and the Russians do not allow, the food does not come. And it’s so cold there right now so they can’t get warm. I think she gave birth in hospital number 2 in Mariupol,” Liubchenko added.
I hope sufficient conditions will be provided for the baby to stay healthy,” she added.
The family tried to call Vishegirskaya back throughout the day, but their efforts were unsuccessful.
At least 13 evacuation corridors from different Ukrainian cities, including the besieged eastern city of Mariupol, will be open on Saturday for civilians, said Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
“Today, a convoy with humanitarian cargo and buses for the evacuation of people (…) is departing from the city of Zaporizhzhia to the city of Mariupol, Donetsk Region, through the following populated localities: Zaporizhzhia, Melitopol, Vasylivka, Berdyansk, Mangush, Mariupol, with mandatory mine sweeping along the entire route,” Vereshchuk said Saturday in a video message.
“I very much hope that today will be a success, all the planned routes will be open and Russia will adhere to the ceasefire obligations it took on,” Vereshchuk added.
In a separate interview with Ukrainian state TV Saturday morning local time, Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said he “hopes” the corridors “that were supposed to open yesterday will open today,” including the one for Mariupol.
This would be the sixth attempt to establish a route from Mariupol, as previous efforts to evacuate residents have largely failed.
Ukrainian authorities reported limited success in securing the evacuation of Ukrainian civilians from the other worst-affected areas Friday.
Vova doesn’t know there is a war raging right outside his window.
He doesn’t understand the meaning of the air raid sirens. He is unaware of the destruction caused by Russian bombs dropping on Kyiv. He just wants to build towers with his toy blocks and press the buttons on his mom’s phone that make it play songs and cartoons he likes.
Vova, a pet name for Volodymyr, is 17 and has Opitz-Kaveggia syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes severe intellectual disabilities. He needs round-the-clock care and anti-seizure medication that has become impossible to obtain as Russian troops close in on the Ukrainian capital, according to his mother, Natalia Komarenko.
“We can’t take him by train, because at any moment he may have a seizure and his temperature may rise. He may not always voice his need to go to the bathroom, and he can’t be left unattended even for a minute,” Komarenko said, adding that driving is also dangerous, in case he has a seizure.
Vova and his family are among thousands of Kyiv families that cannot leave the city because of health conditions that make travel extremely risky.
Komarenko heads a charitable foundation called Z teplom u sertsi (Ukrainian for “With Warmth in the Heart”). The group brings together and creates support networks for Kyiv families living with disabilities. Only 20 to 50 of the 1,247 families in the group — around 260 people in all — have been able to flee the capital, according to Komarenko.
The European Disability Forum, a pan-European NGO, estimates there are 2.7 million people with disabilities in Ukraine. According to Inclusion Europe, another NGO, there are around 261,000 people in Ukraine with intellectual disabilities that make them extremely vulnerable to the conflict.
At least 100,000 of them, mostly children, live in care homes and institutions. Their chances of getting out of the country are slim.
Yet another attempt is being made Saturday to get humanitarian aid into the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol and bring thousands of civilians out.
The city has been under heavy fire from Russian forces for more than a week, and the city council said Friday nearly 1,600 people had been killed.
On Saturday the council announced that “a green corridor is open. A humanitarian convoy departed from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol. More than 90 tons of food and medicine are going to the city, which is under siege for 11 days.”
The council said that, for the second consecutive day, priests of the Orthodox Church had joined the convoy.
The Mariupol “green corridor” is one of several announced by the Ukrainian government in order to get humanitarian aid into areas worst affected by the fighting and help thousands of people to leave areas without power and water and under heavy shelling.
City under siege: Routes from Mariupol and Volnovakha have been repeatedly blocked or inaccessible over the past week. On Friday, Oleksii Reznikov, the Defense Minister, described the situation in Mariupol as very difficult. He accused the Russians of bombing the city even during official negotiations.
Doctors without Borders (MSF) on Friday warned of an “extremely dire” humanitarian situation in the city where their teams report “that many families do not have enough water, food, and medicine.”