February 19, 2024 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Christian Edwards, Antoinette Radford, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:04 a.m. ET, February 20, 2024
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12:03 a.m. ET, February 20, 2024

Ukraine is monitoring Russia's next move after defeat in key eastern town. Here are the headlines

From CNN staff

The Ukrainian military is monitoring how Russian forces are regrouping and preparing for their next moves after capturing the eastern town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region, a Ukrainian military spokesperson said.

International pressure is growing on the US to act on more funding for Ukraine as the war reaches its two-year mark.

Meantime, the widow of an outspoken Kremlin critic is vowing to keep fighting after his death at a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle.

Here's what to know:

  • On the battlefront: Ukrainian forces on Friday announced their withdrawal from Avdiivka, a key town that in recent months became one of the most fiercely contested battles on the eastern front. Ukraine’s army is also under pressure at several other points along the front line that meanders for about 1,000 kilometers from the border with Russia in the north to the Black Sea.
  • US aid for Ukraine: With US aid for Ukraine facing an uncertain future, US President Joe Biden said House Republicans are “making a big mistake” in not responding to Russian aggression with more security funding. The $95.3 billion foreign aid bill with assistance for Ukraine that passed in the Senate last week faces an uncertain future in the House where Speaker Mike Johnson has signaled he will not bring it for a vote — despite growing international pressure.
  • Countries summon Russian UN ambassador: Several nations — including Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Germany — have summoned the Russian ambassador to their countries over Alexey Navalny's death. Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, accused Western countries of politicizing Navalny's death and said the investigation into the cause of death has "not concluded yet."
  • Widow to carry on mission: Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, vowed to continue his mission to create a "happy, beautiful Russia," and accused President Vladimir Putin of being responsible for his death. Separately, Navalny's spokesperson said on X that his body will not be returned to the family for at least another 14 days.

Here's a look at where things stand:

10:52 p.m. ET, February 19, 2024

2 Russian fighter jets shot down in east Ukraine, Air Force says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Ukraine shot down two Russian fighter jets in the eastern part of the country, the Ukrainian Air Force reported on Monday.

The two aircraft destroyed were Su-34 and a Su-35S, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. No further details were provided.

This comes after three Russian fighter jets, two Su-34 and a Su-35, were shot down on February 17 in the east as well, the Air Force added.

4:35 p.m. ET, February 19, 2024

Canada is giving Ukraine 800 drones to help assess targets more quickly and accurately, defense minister says

From CNN's Paula Newton 

Canada is donating 800 drones to Ukraine to help fight Russia's invasion of the country, the Minister of National Defense Bill Blair said on Monday. 

"Drones have emerged as a critical capability in Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression. With these drones, Ukrainian troops will be able to gather more situational awareness and information, so that they can assess targets more quickly, and more accurately," a release from the Press Gallery Secretariat said.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, prompting an ongoing war that's thrusted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to an international stage with many countries, including the US, offering help. Pressure is now mounting to offer more aid as Russia advances in some parts of Ukraine and ammunition is low.

“As we approach the second anniversary of Russia’s illegal invasion, Canada stands firmly with Ukraine in defence of freedom and democracy," Blair said.  

4:36 p.m. ET, February 19, 2024

US House speaker faces increased pressure — and a critical decision — on Ukraine aid

From CNN's Melanie Zanona, Annie Grayer and Haley Talbot

US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks at the US Capitol on February 15 in Washington, DC.
US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks at the US Capitol on February 15 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

US House Speaker Mike Johnson is facing international criticism over his lack of swift action on Ukraine aid, which is ratcheting up pressure to make a critical decision that will not only have massive implications for his rookie speakership but also for Ukraine’s ongoing war effort against Russia.

So far, Johnson has resisted calls to bring a Senate-passed aid package up for a quick vote — a move that would require Democratic support and almost certainly spark a revolt from his right flank, something Johnson is eager to avoid. The speaker has said the legislation, which includes over $60 billion in assistance for Ukraine, would not pass in its current form, and privately told Republicans during a closed-door meeting last week there is “no rush” to address the issue, with Congress since having left town for a nearly two-week recess.

The stakes of the high-profile debate — and Johnson’s pivotal role in a legislative response — came into even greater focus over the weekend. Global leaders gathered at the annual Munich Security Conference just as news broke that Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny had died in prison, while Ukraine suffered a significant setback to Russian forces on the battlefield.

Those developments have injected a new sense of urgency for Congress to act as the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches this weekend and as the Ukrainian military warns it is running out of resources to resist.

While there is a contingent of House Republicans who support additional Ukraine aid and it has majority support from the chamber as a whole, Johnson has to manage a rambunctious right flank that is deeply resistant to additional aid. Further complicating matters, the Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has also injected himself into the debate, urging Republicans to oppose Ukraine funding and continuing to rail against NATO.

Here's more about the House speaker and Ukraine aid.

3:49 p.m. ET, February 19, 2024

Russian UN ambassador accuses Western countries of politicizing Navalny's death

From CNN’s Richard Roth and Zahid Mahmood

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations accused Western countries of politicizing Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny’s death.

Vassily Nebenzia said the investigation into the death of Navalny has “not concluded yet” and the “exact cause of death” has not been disclosed. 

“Our Western colleagues rushed to claim that the death was the responsibility of the Putin regime,” Nebenzia said, speaking at a media stakeout at the UN Security Council.

Earlier, the Kremlin said that an investigation into the circumstances around Navalny’s death is underway and the results are unknown.

Several nations have summoned the Russian ambassador to their countries over Navalny's death. On Monday, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs summoned the ambassador to their countries.

It follows similar actions taken by the United Kingdom and Germany since Navalny’s reported death on Friday. 

CNN’s Al Goodman, Benjamin Brown and Caitlin Danaher contributed reporting to this post.

3:10 p.m. ET, February 19, 2024

NATO's Stoltenberg urges US to "deliver what they promised" and facilitate Ukraine with support package 

From CNN’s Duarte Mendonca

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged the United States to "deliver what they promised," by facilitating Ukraine with a support package to help in their defense against Russian aggression. 

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Saturday, Stoltenberg said it was vital and urgent that the US decide on a package for Ukraine.  

"What I can say is the vital and urgent need for the US to decide on a package for Ukraine, because they need that support and we have a burden sharing between Europe and Canada and United States," Stoltenberg said in a discussion panel during the Munich Security Council. 

Stoltenberg reminded the audience in attendance that Ukraine is currently running low on resources, particularly ammunition.

“At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, we depleted our stocks, but now they are running quite low. So now we are focusing extremely also very much on how to ramp up production,” Stoltenberg said.

The NATO secretary general went on to announce that “there are new factories being set up, production has increased, but there is urgent need to do more.”

Last week, the US Senate passed a $95.3 billion foreign aid bill with assistance for Ukraine, but the bill faces an uncertain future in the US House of Representatives, where House Speaker Mike Johnson has signaled he will not bring it for a vote.

1:23 p.m. ET, February 19, 2024

China tells Ukraine it does not sell weapons to parties in conflict

From CNN’s Sahar Akbarzai and Simone McCarthy

Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi speaks during the 2024 Munich Security Conference on February 17, in Munich, Germany.
Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi speaks during the 2024 Munich Security Conference on February 17, in Munich, Germany. Johannes Simon/Getty Images

China does not sell lethal weapons to parties in conflict, the country's top diplomat told his Ukrainian counterpart over the weekend, during their meeting at the Munich Security Conference.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing does not add “fuel to the fire” and will continue to play a constructive role in ending the Russia-Ukraine war, according to a statement published Sunday by China’s Foreign Ministry.

China claims impartiality in the war but has refused to condemn Moscow's illegal invasion and has acted as an increasingly critical lifeline for the sanctions-hit Russian economy.

Meanwhile, United States officials have repeatedly raised concerns with China about evidence it has suggesting that Chinese companies have sold non-lethal equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine. Last year, a US intel report said China was providing technology and equipment to Russia that was increasingly important to Moscow’s war.

Despite its close ties with Moscow, Beijing has also attempted to promote itself as a peace broker in the conflict — a position reiterated by Wang in remarks at the conference Saturday.

"China has never given up on promoting peace or slackened its efforts to facilitate talks," he said, adding that Chinese leader Xi Jinping "had in-depth exchanges with world leaders including Russian and Ukrainian leaders, playing a constructive role in addressing the crisis."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on X that he spoke with Wang about "bilateral relations, trade, and the need to restore a just and lasting peace in Ukraine."

2:01 p.m. ET, February 19, 2024

Ukraine's military is monitoring how Russian forces are redirecting resources after capturing Avdiivka

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Svitlana Vlasova

The Ukrainian military is monitoring how Russian forces are regrouping and preparing for their next moves after capturing the eastern town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region, Ukrainian military spokesperson said Monday. 

Illia Yevlash, spokesperson for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said now Russian forces had won Advdiivka, they would be able to move their forces wherever else they deemed necessary.

Yevlash said many brigades who had been involved in taking Adviivka, including intelligence units, special operations units, artillery, paratroopers and motorized infantry units could now be redirected.

"So now we will be actively monitoring how they will regroup. Usually, they need some time, about a week, to regroup, move their units, and then we will monitor where they will start to pressure," Yevlash said in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Monday. 

Russian forces have been attacking areas near Bakhmut and Mariinka in the Donetsk region, pushing towards the city of Kupiansk in Kharkiv region in the north, and amassing forces in Zhaporizhzhia region in the south.