“That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict, and it would not matter what members they are,” he said during a meeting with Aeroflot employees outside Moscow.
“These sanctions that are being imposed are akin to a declaration of war but thank God it has not come to that,” he added, according to Radio Free Europe.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett traveled secretly to Moscow Saturday as the Russian invasion dragged into its tenth day for a three-hour sit-down with Putin – his first face-to-face meeting with the head of a democracy since his attack on Ukraine began. Israel has offered to mediate in the conflict at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In other developments Saturday:
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov slammed Russian forces for violating a ceasefire, saying: “It is shelling railway stations with thousands of evacuating women and children. These are the tactics of frightened jackals.”
Ukraine’s armed forces claimed to have shot down two Russian aircraft Saturday, the Kyiv Independent reported, along with five helicopters and a drone.
U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan was called to the Kremlin’s Foreign Ministry office to be told that the US Sen. Lindsey Graham’s recent call for Putin’s assassination would be treated as a serious crime in Russia, Reuters reported. “This is a public, terrorist appeal that is completely unacceptable,” the ministry said.
Russia’s foreign ministry called on members of the European Union and NATO to “stop pumping weapons” to Ukraine – claiming that portable anti-aerial Stinger missiles could end up in the hands of terrorists and pose a threat to airlines.
A Russian plane headed to Washington to ferry expelled officials back to Moscow, according to multiple reports. The State Department approved the Russian government-chartered flight to kick UN personnel – removed “for abuse of their privileges of residence,” a spokesman said – out of the country.
The U.S. State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory warning American citizens against visiting Russia and urging those who are there to get out by any means necessary. “U.S. citizens should depart Russia immediately,” the text of the Level 4 advisory – the department’s highest warning – added.
Bennett’s high-stakes diplomatic effort coincided with Zelensky’s Saturday Zoom call with at least 280 US Senators and House members, during which he chided the US for not slapping sanctions on Putin sooner.
Russia and Ukraine will hold a third round of talks on Monday about ending hostilities, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamiya said Saturday in a Facebook post.