Zelensky says next 24 hours crucial for Ukraine

This handout video grab taken and released by the Ukraine Presidency press service on Feb 28, 2022 shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivering an address in Kyiv. (UKRAINE PRESIDENCY / AFP)

MOSCOW / KIEV / BRUSSELS – The next 24 hours will be crucial for Ukraine's fight with Russia, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday during a phone conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the National News Agency of Ukraine (Ukrinform) reported.

Johnson said he would do all he could to help ensure defensive aid from Britain and other allies reached Ukraine.

The city Berdyansk in southern Ukraine was seized by Russian troops Monday morning, according to the regional government. The Ukrainian army said that the situation in Kiev was still under its control.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would do all he could to help ensure defensive aid from Britain and other allies reached Ukraine

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian delegation arrived at the place for talks with the Russian side in the Gomel region in Belarus on Monday, Sputnik reported.

The Ukrainian delegation for talks with Russia is now in Belarus, Sputnik reported on Monday.

The talks are expected to start on Monday morning, it added.

Ukraine agreed to hold talks with Russia at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border near the Pripyat River, Zelensky said Sunday via social media.

The agreement came after a seesaw struggle between the two sides. The Kremlin earlier announced that a Russian delegation had arrived in Belarus for negotiations with Ukraine, while Zelensky rejected Russia's offer to hold talks in Belarus, saying the country is not an option.

The agreement to hold the talks was reached during a phone call between Zelensky and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.However, Zelensky later said Ukraine would meet with Russia "without prior conditions" at the border.

Earlier Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country's deterrence forces to be placed on "a special mode of combat duty" in a meeting with top defense officials, accusing Western countries of imposing "illegitimate sanctions" against Russia's economy.

Senior officials of leading NATO members issued "aggressive statements" against Russia, Putin said at a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov.

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The decision to put the deterrence forces on combat duty was made as Russia has been conducting "a special military operation" in Ukraine since early Thursday.

Russian forces had destroyed 975 Ukrainian military infrastructure objects, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday morning.

This photo taken on Feb 25, 2022 shows an empty street in Kiev, capital of Ukraine. (LU JINBO / XINHUA)

Russia has blockaded several cities in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Ukraine has mobilized about 100,000 troops amid the conflict with Russia, Valery Zaluzhny, chief commander of the armed forces of Ukraine, said Sunday on Facebook.

About half of the mobilized forces belong to the Territorial Defense Forces of the armed forces of Ukraine, Zaluzhny said.

EU Airspace Shut

Also on Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU would shut its airspace to Russian airlines in response to its "special military operation" in Ukraine since early Thursday.

"We are shutting down the EU airspace for Russians," Von der Leyen said in a statement on Sunday, "We are proposing a prohibition on all Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft."

"These aircraft will no more be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU," she said, adding that the ban would "apply to any plane owned, chartered or otherwise controlled by a Russian legal or natural person."

"So let me be very clear. Our airspace will be closed to every Russian plane – and that includes the private jets of oligarchs," she stressed.

Earlier on Sunday, France also said it would shut down its airspace to Russian airlines and Russian registered aircraft, French national airline Air France announced on its website to suspend flights to and from Russia, effective from Sunday until further notice.

READ MORE: Kyiv plunges into chaos as Putin aims to demilitarize Ukraine

The airline also stated that flights between France and China, South Korean and Japan would also be temporarily suspended in order to study flight plan options enabling to avoid Russian airspace. It has prolonged the suspension of flights to Ukraine's capital Kiev until further notice, "following the shutdown of Ukrainian airspace."  

Due to the closure of EU airspace to Russia, French Foreign Affairs Ministry asked on Sunday its nationals to leave immediately Russia.

"Due to the increasing restrictions on air traffic between Russia and Europe, it is strongly recommended that non-resident French nationals in Russia make arrangements to leave the country without delay by existing air links," the French ministry said in the latest travelling notice.

According to the ministry, most European companies, including Air France, have suspended from this Sunday evening flights in and out of Russia after the European Union has decided to close its airspace to Russia.

This photo shows a boy among the refugees from Ukraine in Medyka, Poland, Feb 26, 2022. (ZHOU NAN / XINHUA)

The UN Security Council (UNSC) on Sunday adopted Resolution 2623 that calls for an "emergency special session" of the UN General Assembly to consider and recommend collective action on the Ukraine crisis.

It is the first such a resolution that the council has adopted in four decades, according to the Security Council Report. The UNSC on Friday failed to adopt a draft resolution on Ukraine.