February 22, 2024 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Antoinette Radford, Aditi Sangal, Tori B. Powell and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 23, 2024
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11:41 p.m. ET, February 22, 2024

More sanctions against Putin are coming, Biden says. Here's what you should know

From CNN staff

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Russian President Vladimir Putin
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Russian President Vladimir Putin Getty Images/FILE

The Biden Administration announced the latest slate of sanctions on more than 500 targets, in what a Treasury Department spokesperson called the “largest single tranche since the start of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s further invasion of Ukraine." The sanctions will be imposed Friday, the official said.

The sanctions were in response to Alexey Navalny's death and comes just one day before the two-year anniversary of Russia's invasion.

One day before sanctions announcement, President Joe Biden met with Navalny’s wife and daughter, Yulia and Dasha Navalnaya, in San Francisco, California. The president expressed his condolences to the family, as well as his "admiration" for Navalny’s "extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption," according to a readout from the White House.

Here are other headlines you should know:

  • More sanctions: The US Justice Department on Thursday announced a sweeping set of criminal and civil enforcement actions targeting sanctioned Russian oligarchs and others accused of working to support the Kremlin and its military. US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby previewed further sanctions against Iran in the coming days and said, "we are prepared to go further if Iran sells ballistic missiles to Russia." 
  • Navalny's widow: Alexey Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, reiterated that she believes Putin killed her husband and urged the media not to be diverted by Russian government narratives. 
  • Navalny's mother: Navalny's mother said she has been shown her son's medical report, which stated his cause of death was due to natural causes. Lyudmila Navalnaya said she was also shown her son's body in the Russian town of Salekhard where investigators were "threatening" her into agreeing to a secret funeral for her son, or "they will do something with my son’s body." But a Kremlin spokesperson declined to comment on her claim. The Russian Investigative Committee set more conditions to release Navalny's body to his mother, said Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, during an interview with independent Russian journalist Alexander Plyushchev on Thursday. The wife of an imprisoned human rights advocate said said this all shows that Russian authorities are afraid of Navalny even after this death.

  • Developments on the ground: At least one person has been killed and nine injured as a result of Russian shelling at the eastern Ukrainian village Kostiantynopolske, according to the head of the Donetsk region military administration. Elsewhere, nine people were injured Thursday in a Russian attack on a power plant in the Ukrainian city of Kurakhove in the eastern Donetsk region, according to the regional prosecutor's office. 
  • Military aid and support: Belarus and Russia will hold joint military exercises on Belarusian territory in 2025, the Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said. Also, Denmark unveiled a new $247.4 million (1.7 billion Krone) Ukraine military aid package Thursday as well as a 10-year Danish security commitment to Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron will host a meeting in support of Ukraine in Paris on Monday, the Elysée said in a statement Thursday. And Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa said the country will no longer send military equipment to the United States after discovering the weapons would be handed over to Ukraine to battle Russia. 
  • Mental health issues: The war in Ukraine has had devastating consequences for children's mental health, as those living in frontline areas have been forced to spend between 3,000 and 5,000 hours — the equivalent of four to almost seven months — sheltering in basements and underground metro stations, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement Thursday. 
  • Controversial comments: US President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "crazy S.O.B." at a fundraiser Wednesday in San Francisco, drawing sharp criticism from the Kremlin. The Russian Ambassador to the United States said Biden’s comment can’t be resolved “with simple apology."
9:05 p.m. ET, February 22, 2024

Russian authorities are afraid of Navalny even after his death, Kremlin critic's wife says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight

Flowers lie at a makeshift memorial for Alexey Navalny in Vilnius, Lithuania, on February 16.
Flowers lie at a makeshift memorial for Alexey Navalny in Vilnius, Lithuania, on February 16. Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

The refusal of Russian authorities to release Alexey Navalny’s body to his mother shows they are afraid of the opposition leader even after his death, according to Evgenia Kara-Murza, the wife of Russian human rights advocate and Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza.

“It also shows how much they are afraid of him, the Russian authorities are afraid of Alexey even dead. They do not want to allow his supporters, yes millions of people, his supporters and his family to say their goodbyes. They want to do everything in secret. That is despicably twisted,” she told CNN’s Jim Sciutto Thursday.

Evgenia Kara-Murza, also said she is concerned about Navalny’s mother’s safety.

“Anyone who challenges the regime and the regime decisions in any way is in danger,” she said.

Kara-Murza said the only way she gets to hear her husband’s voice is when he gets to speak during rare court hearings. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison after publicly condemning Moscow’s war in Ukraine

7:11 p.m. ET, February 22, 2024

Biden will impose sanctions on more than 500 targets in response to Navalny death, official says

From CNN's Sam Fossum, Priscilla Alvarez and Kevin Liptak

The Biden administration will impose a fresh slate of sanctions on more than 500 targets on Friday in response to the death of opposition figure Alexey Navalny and on the eve of Russia’s two-year war in Ukraine, according to a Treasury official. 

The sanctions will be the “largest single tranche since the start of Putin’s further invasion of Ukraine,” a Treasury Department spokesperson said in a statement Thursday, and will target “Russia, its enablers, and its war machine.”

The sanctions will come from both the US Treasury and the State Department, the spokesperson said.

The sanctions mark the latest move by the administration to levy consequences against Russia amid heightened tensions between the two countries. 

Speaking Tuesday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the new measures would be a "substantial package" that covers a wide range of elements linked to the Russian defense industrial base and sources of revenue for the Russian economy that power the country's "war machine."

Sullivan described the package as "another turn of the crank" after withering Western sanctions on Moscow since the start of the Ukraine war. While those sanctions have hampered Russia's economy, they haven't deterred Putin from proceeding with the invasion.

US officials had been working on a new sanctions package on Russia ahead of Navalny’s death and supplemented them in the wake of the opposition leader's death, according to a senior US official, adding that US officials coordinated with European partners on the new package. 

Reuters first reported the number of targets sanctioned.

5:28 p.m. ET, February 22, 2024

Russian Investigative Committee sets more conditions to release Navalny’s body to family, Navalny foundation says

From CNN’s Mariya Knight in Atlanta

The Russian Investigative Committee set more conditions to release Alexey Navalny’s body to his mother, said Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, during an interview with independent Russian journalist Alexander Plyushchev on Thursday.

Aside from conducting a secret funeral "among the family," the committee said they require the following three conditions:

  1. The body should be transported to Moscow on a special plane, and before arriving in the capital, Navalny’s mother should not announce the funeral in order for the crowd not to meet the body in the airport.
  2. The family must be accompanied by an employee of the investigative committee at all times before the funeral.
  3. Navalny’s mother should decide on the date of the funeral after arriving in Moscow. The body should be kept in the Moscow or Vladimir region before the funeral. According to Zhdanov, the investigative committee “is afraid that the morgue will be stormed.”

The death certificate will be given to Navalny’s family once they agree to meet the above conditions, according to Zhdanov.

Navalny’s mother was first denied the cemetery of her choice, and then both parties agreed to hold the funeral at Khovanskoye cemetery in Moscow, Zhdanov said, adding that the parties haven’t agreed on the farewell hall. Navalny’s mother was threatened into agreeing to these conditions, Zhdanov said.

4:29 p.m. ET, February 22, 2024

US will impose sanctions directly against Putin for Navalny death, Biden says

From CNN’s Nikki Carvajal and Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden speaks to the media in San Francisco on Thursday.
US President Joe Biden speaks to the media in San Francisco on Thursday. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

US President Joe Biden said Thursday he would impose sanctions directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, who he said was “responsible” for the death of dissident Alexey Navalny. 

Biden made the announcement in San Francisco shortly after meeting with Navalny’s widow and daughter. 

“I had the honor of meeting with his wife and daughter and to state the obvious he was a man of incredible courage,” Biden said. “We're gonna be announcing sanctions against Putin, who is responsible for his death, tomorrow.” 

Biden said it was clear from the meeting that Navalny's wife would "continue to fight."

"We're not letting up," he said.

4:05 p.m. ET, February 22, 2024

France will host international Ukraine aid meeting next week

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron will host a meeting in support of Ukraine in Paris on Monday, the Elysée said in a statement Thursday.

The announcement comes shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited France and thanked the country for the $3.2 billion (3 billion euros) in aid that Paris pledged to Kyiv for 2024.

Ukraine has been pleading for more military aid, including ammunitions, following the fall of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv claims the fall would not have happened had more aid been delivered in time.

3:45 p.m. ET, February 22, 2024

Biden’s comment on Putin "can’t be resolved with simple apology," Russian ambassador to the US says

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Katharina Krebs

The Russian Ambassador to the United States said President Joe Biden’s recent comment calling Russian President Vladimir Putin “a crazy SOB” can’t be resolved “with simple apology."

“It is unlikely that the current situation will be resolved with simple apologies, and the US authorities will not agree to do this," ambassador Anatoly Antonov said in a statement. "Strictly speaking, we do not expect an adequate response. As we approach the November elections in America, these kinds of escapades are becoming routine."

The Russian Embassy sent “a strong note of protest” to the US State Department “about the outrageous nature and unacceptability of insults made by the American leadership against the Russian President.”

Antonov said the Biden administration “continues to destroy the remnants of the positive legacy of Russian-American relations” and “the inappropriate rhetoric of the American authorities only testifies to the impotence and lack of common sense in the current policy towards Russia.”

4:04 p.m. ET, February 22, 2024

Blinken says Putin's efforts to "poison and imprison" Navalny showcase Russia's weakness

From CNN's Haley Britzky and Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday. Pablo Porciuncula/AFP/Getty Images

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to “persecute, poison, and imprison” Alexey Navalny showcases his country’s weakness under Putin's leadership. 

“[T]he fact that Vladimir Putin saw it necessary to persecute, poison, and imprison one man speaks volumes not about Russia’s strengths under Putin but its weakness,” Blinken said. “And I think again countries around the world, including in the G-20, were very clear about what they thought about what happened to Mr. Navalny.” 

He also said "many" of the countries in the G20 Foreign Ministerial meeting in Rio de Janeiro voiced support over the ”imperative of ending the Russian aggression” in Ukraine.

In his remarks at a session Wednesday, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attended, Blinken denounced Russia as "the world’s leading exporter of instability."

Blinken also said additional sanctions against Russia are “forthcoming,” echoing US President Joe Biden who said earlier this week there would be a “major package announced on Friday.”