* One Putin move and behold: West's unity tightens overnight
* Ukrainian tries to scuttle Russian boss's superyacht
* Russian ruble plummets as sanctions bite
* Russia to be excluded from sports including Fifa World Cup
The UN Security Council today held an emergency meeting to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the meeting that the lives of millions were at risk and asked those present to pray for peace.
UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi issued a warning over the scale of the growing refugee crisis, commending those countries admitting refugees for their efforts but saying he was concerned that the exodus was only "the beginning".
He said the UNHCR was making plans based on up to 4 million Ukrainians crossing borders in the coming days and weeks.
He called on world governments to donate to the relief effort, to add to nearly US$40 million in private donations made in recent days.
Russia's representative, currently the President of the Security Council, said that the Ukrainian people were being hostage by "radicals" and claimed that civilians were being protected in areas now held by Russia.
He claimed that Ukraine's decision to release prisoners to fight has led to looting.
He told Kyiv's residents that they were free to leave, saying they would be given safe passage.
He claimed that "dirty lies" were being spread by Ukraine and amplified by Western media, telling the council that Ukraine was placing forces in civilian areas and Russia was not targeting civilians.
In reply, Ukraine's representative told the council that the invasion "violates the conscience of the world".
He said that Russia was attacking kindergartens, hospitals and mobile aid brigades.
"The is the action of a state determined to kill civilians," he said.
He warned that Russia was training its missiles on targets that, if struck, could lead to radioactive fallout.
He urged the world to ignore what he said were consistent mistruths spread by Russia's representatives.
"Do not listen to Russia's lies, listen to Ukraine's cries. We need your help."
Kenya's representative called into question the deepening sanctions against Russia, arguing that they risked impacting innocent Russians and heightening tensions.
The US said the invasion was a "moment of great peril and great tragedy," repeating its description of the conflict as "President Putin's war of choice".
Representatives from multiple countries have claimed that evidence has emerged proving the use of illegal cluster munitions by the Russians.
The international Convention on Cluster Munitions, passed in 2010, comprehensively bans cluster munitions and requires member countries to clear areas contaminated by cluster munition remnants within 10 years.
Neither Russia nor the US has signed the convention.
The meeting comes as an embattled Ukraine moved to solidify its bond with the West early this morning (NZT) by signing an application to join the European Union, while the first round of Ukraine-Russia talks aimed at ending the fighting concluded with no immediate agreements.
The conclusion of the talks saw renewed attacks on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, while at least 11 civilians have been killed after the Russians began bombing residential areas in Ukraine's second-biggest city, Kharkiv.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted photos of himself signing the EU application, a largely symbolic move that could take years to become reality and is unlikely to sit well with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long accused the West of trying to pull Ukraine into its orbit.
Russian and Ukrainian officials held their meeting on day five of the war under the shadow of Putin's nuclear threats, and with Moscow's invasion of Ukraine running into unexpectedly fierce resistance.
Zelenskyy has revealed that all prisoners who have real combat experience will be released from jail and will be able to "compensate for their guilt in the hottest spots of war".
"We have taken a decision which is not easy from the moral point of view, but which is useful from the point of view of our defences," he said.
The brutal invasion of Ukraine is raging on with blasts rocking Russia's two main targets in Kyiv and Kharkiv — cities Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly ordered the military to take by force today.
A 25-kilometre convoy consisting of hundreds of armoured vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles was just 25 kilometres from the centre of Kyiv, according to satellite imagery from the Maxar company.
The images also captured signs of fighting outside Kyiv, including destroyed vehicles and a damaged bridge.
The US Defence Department says that almost 75% of the Russian forces massed on Ukraine's borders are now inside the country.
Despite the overwhelming numbers, Ukrainian resistance has seen Russian progress slowed.
"They're using pretty much everything that they have in their arsenal, from small arms all the way up to surface to air missiles to try to slow down the Russians," a senior US defence official told the BBC.
There was a pause in fighting overnight which experts say signalled that Putin's army is recalibrating and will come next with even greater force. That appears to be already under way with reports of shelling in Kyiv and Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv.
Oleg Svist, in Chernihiv, told the BBC his city is being attacked from all sides.
"I hear explosions from everywhere," he said. It is "like a circle around me".
"It's imminent, it's not somewhere far away, they're bombing the centre of Chernihiv."
The 48-year -old IT worker said it is "too late to hide" and he will not attempt to escape because it is "impossible".
He told the BBC that locals are instead queuing to get their hands on armour and Kalashnikov rifles to repel the invaders
At least two other Ukrainian cities – Berdyansk and Kakhovka – have been lost to Russia, with the nation's military reporting it had claimed air superiority over the defenders.
However, Ukraine says Russian troops have slowed down "the pace of the offensive" as Russia's military begins its fifth day of operations in the country. "The Russian occupiers have reduced the pace of the offensive, but are still trying to develop success in some areas," Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers posted to Twitter on Monday.
The UK Defence Ministry reported "logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance", with the bulk of Putin's forces still 30km north of Kyiv.
At least 11 civilians have been killed in Russian shelling on Ukraine's second most populated city Kharkiv on Monday, the regional governor said, adding dozens more had been injured.
"The Russian enemy is bombing residential areas," Oleg Sinegubov, wrote on the Telegram messaging app, saying that: "As a result of the bombardments that are ongoing, we cannot call on the emergency services... currently there are 11 dead and dozens wounded".
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists his country "won't give up" on its relations with either Russia or Ukraine, but says it will implement an international convention that allows Turkey to shut down the straits at the entrance of the Black Sea to the warships of "belligerent countries."
The 1936 Montreux Convention gives Turkey the right to bar warships from using the Dardanelles and the Bosporus during wartime. Ukraine has asked Turkey to implement the treaty and bar access to Russian warships.
Several Russian ships have already sailed through the straits to the Black Sea in the past weeks and it was not clear how much of an impact Turkey's decision to close down the straits would have on the conflict. The convention, also provides an exception for Black Sea vessels returning to port.
It follows Russian teams being suspended from international football. The decision came from FIFA and UEFA, saying Russia's national teams and clubs were suspended "until further notice."
"Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine," FIFA and UEFA said.
"Both presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people."
Survival of Snake Island guards confirmed
The Ukrainian Navy has confirmed that the soldiers that confronted the Russian Navy on Snake Island survived the assault and were taken prisoner.
On Monday, the Ukrainian Naval Forces confirmed in a Facebook post that "our brothers-in-arms are alive and well".
They "twice bravely repulsed the attacks of the Russian occupiers" but were forced to surrender when they ran out of ammunition.
The island, a key territorial point in the Black Sea, was "completely destroyed," the statement said.
A widely shared video purportedly included audio of the defenders' defiant resistance when a Russian warship demanded they surrender.
"This is a Russian warship. I propose you lay down arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary victims. Otherwise, you'll be bombed," the Russians said in the clip.
The Ukrainian defenders responded repeatedly, "Russian warship, go f*ck yourself."
Communications with the border guards and armed forces on the island were severed after an aerial attack and artillery shelling.
Talks end near border
A top adviser to Ukraine's president said that the first round of talks with Russia had ended and that both delegations had returned home for consultations in their capitals.
Mykhailo Podolyak gave few details except to say that the talks, held near the Ukraine-Belarus border, were focused on a possible cease-fire and that a second round could take place "in the near future."
At this stage, Ukraine is many years away from reaching the standards for achieving EU membership, and the 27-nation bloc is expansion-weary and unlikely to take on new members any time soon.
Also, any addition to the EU must be approved unanimously, and some member states have complicated approval procedures.
Overall, the consensus has been that Ukraine's deep-seated corruption could make it hard for the country to win EU acceptance. Still, in an interview with Euronews on Sunday, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said, "We want them in the European Union."
Attacks on Kyiv began shortly after talks concluded, with video showing a large explosion hitting the Brovary area of the capital.
Early reports suggest a military radar installation was targeted and the Mayor of Brovary was among those injured.
Meanwhile, outgunned Ukrainian forces managed to slow the Russian advance, and Western sanctions began to squeeze the Russian economy, but the Kremlin again raised the spectre of nuclear war, reporting that its land, air and sea nuclear forces were on high alert following President Vladimir Putin's weekend order.
Stepping up his rhetoric, Putin denounced the U.S. and its allies as an "empire of lies."
A tense calm reigned in Kyiv, where people lined up to buy food, water and pet food after two nights trapped inside by a strict curfew, but social media video from Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, showed residential areas being shelled, with apartment buildings shaken by repeated, powerful blasts. Authorities in Kharkiv said at least seven people had been killed and dozens injured. They warned that casualties could be far higher.
"They wanted to have a blitzkrieg, but it failed, so they act this way," said 83-year-old Valentin Petrovich, who described watching the shelling from his downtown apartment. He spoke on condition that his full name not be used, fearing for his security.
The Russian military has denied targeting residential areas despite abundant evidence of shelling of homes, schools and hospitals.
Across the country, terrified families huddled overnight in shelters, basements or corridors.
"I sit and pray for these negotiations to end successfully, so that they reach an agreement to end the slaughter, and so there is no more war," said Alexandra Mikhailova, weeping as she clutched her cat in a makeshift shelter in the strategic southeastern port city of Mariupol. Around her, parents sought to console children and keep them warm.
The U.N. human rights chief said at least 102 civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded in more than four days of fighting — warning that figure is probably a vast undercount — and Ukraine's president said at least 16 children were among the dead.
More than a half-million people have fled the country since the invasion, another U.N. official said, with many of them going to Poland, Romania and Hungary. And millions have left their homes.
Still, a sliver of hope emerged as the first face-to-face talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials since the war began opened Monday. The delegations met at a long table with the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag on one side and the Russian tricolor on the other.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office said it would demand an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Russian troops.
But while Ukraine sent its defense minister and other top officials, the Russian delegation was led by Putin's adviser on culture — an unlikely envoy for ending the war and perhaps a sign of how seriously Moscow views the talks.
Also, the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly opened its first emergency session in decades in order to deal with the Ukraine invasion, with Assembly President Abdulla Shahid calling for an immediate cease-fire, maximum restraint by all parties and "a full return to diplomacy and dialogue."
Putin is not completely isolated and has talked to a series of heads of state in recent days, including a 90-minute call with French President Emmanuel Macron, who called for a truce. He has also spoken to the leaders of Israel, Armenia and other nations.
Meanwhile, Russia's Central Bank scrambled to shore up the tanking ruble, and the U.S. and European countries upped weapons shipments to Ukraine. While they hope to curb Putin's aggression, the measures also risked pushing an increasingly cornered Putin closer to the edge — and inflicted pain on ordinary Russians.
In Moscow, people lined up to withdraw cash as the sanctions threatened their livelihoods and savings.
It wasn't immediately clear what Putin is seeking in the talks, or from the war itself, though Western officials believe he wants to overthrow Ukraine's government and replace it with a regime of his own, reviving Moscow's Cold War-era influence.
The Russian leader made a clear link between ever-tightening sanctions and his decision Sunday to raise Russia's nuclear posture. He also cited "aggressive statements" from NATO.
Moscow's Defense Ministry said that extra personnel were deployed to Russian nuclear forces and that the high alert applies to nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and long-range bombers.
A senior U.S. defense official, speaking Monday on condition of anonymity, said the United States had yet to see any appreciable change in Russia's nuclear posture.
It was not immediately clear whether any nuclear-armed aircraft were in the air around Ukraine.
U.S. and British officials have played down Putin's nuclear threat as posturing. But for many, the move stirred up memories of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and fears that the West could be drawn into direct conflict with Russia.
In another potential escalation, neighboring Belarus could send troops to help Russia as soon as Monday, according to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of U.S. intelligence assessments. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Western officials say they believe the invasion has been slower, at least so far, than the Kremlin envisioned. British authorities said the bulk of Putin's forces were about 30 kilometres north of Kyiv.
Messages aimed at those soldiers popped up Monday on billboards, bus stops and electronic traffic signs across Kyiv. Some used profanity to encourage Russians to leave. Others appealed to their humanity.
"Russian soldier — Stop! Remember your family. Go home with a clean conscience," one read.
In other fighting, strategic ports in the country's south came under assault from Russian forces. Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, is "hanging on," said Zelenskyy adviser Oleksiy Arestovich. An oil depot was reported bombed in the eastern city of Sumy. Ukrainian protesters demonstrated against encroaching Russian troops in the port of Berdyansk.
With the Ukrainian capital of nearly 3 million besieged, the Russian military offered to allow residents to leave Kyiv via a safe corridor.
In a war being waged both on the ground and online, cyberattacks hit Ukrainian embassies around the world, and Russian media.
Western nations ramped up the pressure with a freeze on Russia's hard currency reserves, threatening to bring Russia's economy to its knees. The U.S., European Union and Britain also agreed to block selected Russian banks from the Swift system, which facilitates the moving of money around thousands of banks and other financial institutions worldwide.
In addition to sanctions, the U.S. and Germany announced they will send Stinger missiles and other military supplies to Ukraine. The European Union — founded to ensure peace on the continent after World War II — is supplying lethal aid for the first time, including anti-tank weapons.
EU defence ministers were to meet Monday to discuss how to get the weaponry into Ukraine. A trainload of Czech equipment arrived Sunday and another was en route Monday, though blocking such shipments will clearly be a key Russian priority.
New Zealand's response to invasion
Port unions are taking action on Russian flagged ships.
In a joint press release, a spokesperson for the Rail and Maritime Transport Union and the Maritime Union of New Zealand said the members are reluctant to work Russian flagged ships in New Zealand ports and are looking at methods of protest.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson said workers may deliver letters of protest to the Captain of any Russian flagged vessels in local ports.
He said it is important to note any protest was not anti-Russian crews, but against aggression and war decisions at the leadership level.
Foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta has told the world New Zealand strongly condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying it is the "act of a bully" and "must stop".
Mahuta, in her speech to the United Nations Human RIghts Council, said the Russian Government had repeatedly ignored opportunities for diplomacy, negotiation and de-escalation and had instead chosen aggression.
"This is a clear act of aggression; a blatant breach of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity; and a violation of international law and the UN Charter by a Permanent Member of the Security Council," she said.
"We are witnessing the blatant act of a bully, brutally using its unbridled power to achieve goals at odds with international law. Sadly, women and children are already the innocent victims of this illegal aggression - this cannot be tolerated."
She warned Russia's actions would have far-reaching and serious humanitarian, security and economic implications for Ukraine, Russia, Europe, as well as the rest of the world.
Mahuta repeated New Zealand's calls for Russia to act consistently with its international obligations, cease military operations in Ukraine, permanently withdraw its troops, take all possible steps to protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law, and return to diplomatic negotiations as a pathway to resolve this conflict.
"We must not let diplomacy fail, we must persevere in the pursuit of an outcome that prevents further suffering. War, Mr President, must stop!"
Increasing reports of destruction
Lana Burns, a Ukranian living in New Zealand, said the attacks on her home country were scary and devestating.
She said her family couldn't do much when the bomb strikes happened. "They are basically just hiding in their bathrooms... they are there because it's probably the strongest part of the apartment block."
They were sheltering in apartments with both their lights and phones off and were just praying.
One of her cousins hadn't been in touch with her family for 24 hours, she told RNZ. "It's scary. We didn't know where she was and she has a little baby."
She said some people were hiding in the forest in the middle of winter with no food or electricity. "It's devastating."
Russian soldiers dressed as civilians were also targeting apartment blocks. "They put crosses with luminous paint that glows in the dark so they can see where that target is."
Burns said she felt absolutely powerless, but was doing everything she could. She was working with the New Zealand Government trying to get immediate entrance for her family and pushing for extra sanctions for Russia.
UNICEF spokesman James Elder, in Ukraine, says he could not remember a more gut-wrenching day yesterday - seeing the "endless forced farewells".
Speaking to TVNZ's Breakfast show from Lviv, he said he had seen dads getting down on their hands and knees trying to explain to their young sons and daughters why they had to leave and he has to stay behind.
"I've seen things escalate terribly," he said.
Over the last few days, he had heard of increasing reports of schools hit, hospitals affected and children killed.
"This is what happens - children die in these things.
"The world does not need another country like Ukraine where children get used to - 'oh, air-raid siren, quick jump out of my bed and run to my bunker."
Elder said he had started to see hundreds of thousands of people trying to leave the country as a result of the Russian invasion.
"It's a proper crisis," he said of the situation and scenes of thousands of people waiting to catch trains out to safety.
Asked what people can do back in New Zealand, Elder encouraged Kiwis to donate what they can to help the people of Ukraine affected by the attack.
"Any New Zealand dollars go a long way."
- Associated Press and agencies