The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Putin threatens Ukraine’s ‘statehood,’ likens sanctions to ‘declaration of war’

On March 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that harsh international sanctions against Russia were like a ‘declaration of war.’ (Video: Joy Yi/The Washington Post)
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MUKACHEVO, Ukraine — As Russian forces battered swaths of Ukraine, including a humanitarian “safe corridor” where there was supposed to be a cease-fire deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the nation could lose its sovereignty.

In his first extended remarks about the war since the invasion began, Putin said Saturday that international sanctions against Moscow put “the future of Ukrainian statehood” at risk and are “a means of fighting against Russia,” like a “declaration of war.”

Ukrainian officials accused Russia of breaching a temporary truce in the southern cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha — meant to allow people to flee the battle zone — less than three hours after both sides were supposed to have ceased fire.

Russia’s relentless assault has put parts of Ukraine under siege, with basic necessities undeliverable and Ukrainians prevented from leaving. Besieged areas needed the cease-fire to restore basic services such as electricity, heat and tap water, Ukrainian officials said, and to bring in medical supplies that Russia’s blockades have cut off. The lack of necessities is compounding what local leaders have called a humanitarian “catastrophe.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke directly with U.S. lawmakers Saturday, pleading with them to support Ukraine’s call for “control of the skies” to fend off Russian airstrikes.

Here’s what to know

  • Four Ukrainian cities — Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mariupol and Sumy — are “highly likely” to have been encircled by Russian forces, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Saturday.
  • WNBA star Brittney Griner has been arrested in Russia on suspicion of illegally bringing drugs into the country after being searched at the airport and found with hash oil in her luggage, according to Russian news agency Tass.
  • The United States and Western allies have grown tight-lipped about how they are delivering military aid to Ukraine, as the country’s airspace has become part of a war zone that no Western nation wants to enter.
  • Following a new Russian law that would imprison those who spread what the Kremlin considers “fake” news about the country’s invasion of Ukraine, independent media outlets are shuttering their operations and Western news organizations are limiting their newsgathering activity.
  • Nearly 1.3 million people have fled the fighting in Ukraine, and at least 351 civilians have been killed, according to U.N. agencies.