February 24, 2023 - It's now one year since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began

By Kathleen Magramo, Rob Picheta, Christian Edwards, Ed Upright, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 3:32 p.m. ET, February 25, 2023
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3:05 p.m. ET, February 24, 2023

More than 9 million refugees have crossed over to Poland since Russia's invasion of Ukraine

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Refugees from Ukraine are pictured after crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border in Korczowa on March 2.
Refugees from Ukraine are pictured after crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border in Korczowa on March 2. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 9 million Ukrainian refugees — mostly women and children — crossed over to Poland, according Polish Consular General Adrian Kubicki, who told CNN that some decided to go back to Ukraine, some go back and forth, and some continued on to other countries.

Kubicki said that Poland demonstrated a new model of refugee assistance as it never put people fleeing their homeland in refugee camps. Instead, they are given a PESEL, which is the equivalent of an American social security number, so they could receive resources similar to the ones available to Polish citizens, he told CNN.

Ukrainian refugees would also have access to free education for their children and legal employment. People with disabilities would receive a per diem.

"We will provide it for as long as it needs to be provided," he said, noting that there is no expiration date set for this provision.

Poland is also the hub for many non-profit organizations that wish to help Ukrainian refugees flee to Poland or relocate to other countries, he said.

One of the organizations helping refugees is the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). It has been in the area since before the war, but CEO Ariel Zwang says the resources channeled in the country have greatly increased since the invasion began.

The organization's total Ukraine-related budget expanded from $63.3 million to $113 million — a 78% increase. This includes the care for Ukrainian refugees outside the country, it told CNN.

They provide impacted Jewish Ukrainians with information, assistance and evacuation abilities.

"Internally displaced people stay in JDC hotels and receive trauma therapy," Zwang said, who gave the example of an elderly woman who she met in western Ukraine after being evacuated from eastern Ukraine.

"JDC reached out to her early in the war asking if she wants to relocate [to another country], and she said, 'no, I don’t know if my homecare will continue, I don’t know anybody there,'" Zwang recounted. "But when a JDC Hesed [community center] called again, asking if she wanted to evacuate to another location within Ukraine, she agreed. So we sent her a car so she could get to a bus at 7 a .m. (local time) to evacuate."

While stopping in the city of Dnipro for a few days, the woman heard thunderstorms and thought it was shelling. Zwang said that the woman was traumatized, and said, "My god, they have found me here too.”

A JDC aid worker provides a taste of apples and honey to an elderly Jewish woman in the besieged city of Dnipro. The apples and honey were included in JDC's Rosh Hashanah food aid packages provided to thousands of poor Jewish seniors across Ukraine.
A JDC aid worker provides a taste of apples and honey to an elderly Jewish woman in the besieged city of Dnipro. The apples and honey were included in JDC's Rosh Hashanah food aid packages provided to thousands of poor Jewish seniors across Ukraine. Misha Kovalev

1:32 p.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Zelensky says Russia must be stopped from destabilizing Moldova

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Tim Lister

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a news conference on the first anniversary of Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a news conference on the first anniversary of Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia will continue to try to destabilize Moldova, and that Moscow's attempts should be stopped with "more weapons" and "more sanctions."

Zelensky's comments came after Russia sought to flip the narrative Friday, claiming Kyiv was the government provoking tensions in the nation on its southern border, not Moscow. The Ukrainian president responded during an address marking one year of Russia's full-scale invasion.

Zelensky said his government respects the territorial integrity of Moldova, and that Transnistria — a sliver of land where Russia has inserted a so-called peacekeeping force to back pro-Moscow separatists — is included in that rightful Moldovan territory.

Zelensky said Russia is carrying out a "hybrid war and information war" in Moldova.

"Putin needs to show successes and victories. But there will be no victory on the battlefield in Ukraine. Therefore, he can go looking for success where there are weak points," he said.

"I think it's important to stop these attempts with more weapons, more sanctions, the appropriate steps," he added.

More background: Officials in Moldova and in several Western governments have expressed concern in recent weeks that Moscow is mirroring some of the steps it used as a pretext for invasions in Georgia and Ukraine.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu has warned of an alleged Russian plot to destabilize her government, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced "deep concern" about the prospect of Moscow meddling with the tiny country.

Russia has leveled its own accusations at Ukraine, warning against NATO or Kyiv taking "adventurous steps"in Transnistria, and claiming that an attack on Moscow's compatriots in the territory would be considered an attack on Russia itself.

A spokesperson for Ukraine's State Border Service responded to Russia's comments Friday, saying the Ukrainian military and National Guard have taken “increased measures on the border with Transnistria" but solely "to prevent any provocations from the other side.”

CNN's Katharina Krebs contributed to this report.

1:25 p.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Listen: CNN 5 Things podcast looks back on one year of war in Ukraine

From CNN's Krista Bobrowski

Ukrainian servicemen make a trench near Bakhmut on February 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP) (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen make a trench near Bakhmut on February 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP) (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images) (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

One year ago today, Russia invaded Ukraine and the world hasn’t been the same since.

CNN 5 Things podcast takes a deep dive into the conflict in today's special episode.

Listen here to learn how Ukraine has defied the odds, why Russia did this in the first place, and what lies ahead.

2:09 p.m. ET, February 24, 2023

After hellish year, Izium residents hope for stability

From CNN's Sarah Dean and Olha Konovalova in Izium, Ukraine

Destroyed buildings are seen in Izium.
Destroyed buildings are seen in Izium. (CNN)

In the northeastern Ukrainian city of Izium, "everything was destroyed” while it was in Russian control for six months, 44-year-old Julia told CNN on the one-year anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

While the city has been back in Ukrainian hands since September 2022, the scars of war remain. 

“We were left without anything,” Julia said. “We need to de-mine and we need help with machinery to work the land.”

Eighty-year-old Galina picked up supplies while she waited for subsidies.

"I'm going to all the authorities, I can't get it,” she said. “I've been here all the time. The windows are beaten up. … I had to buy glass with my own money."

Nastya and her daughter are Izium residents.
Nastya and her daughter are Izium residents. (CNN)

Nastya, 27, said she and her daughter hope they do not to live under occupation again. She dreams of peace, for everything to be rebuilt, and for kindergartens and schools to run normally.

“I would like to have stability and everything to be all right,” she said.

On the road into Izium, a CNN team passed through the obliterated town of Kamyanka. Once the scene of fierce fighting, it is now deserted, with every home and building shattered. Only a lone unmarked police car pulled over to enquire about CNN's presence. The ground was pockmarked with holes, sometimes craters. Trees stood scorched and splintered — a bleak picture of a fate Izium escaped.

Izium local Lilia, 52, said she does not know what the next year will bring, but she prays that “God grant us not to be touched.”

Izium resident Lilia.
Izium resident Lilia. (CNN)


1:01 p.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Ukrainian weapon firms demonstrate guided missile system at a defense fair to show they "are still strong”

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

A group of Ukrainian companies showcased a guided missile system at the largest defense exhibit in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi, where companies from around the world present their latest weaponry. 

The missile system was allegedly used to destroy Russian tanks this year.

Ukrainians said that while they were not at the exhibit to sell their products, their representation at the conference was important to show Middle East customers that one year since the invasion, they’re “still alive”.

“We are here to remind our former main customers in the Middle East that we are still alive … we are still strong,” said Oleg Babenko, a representative for one of the Ukrainian weapons manufacturers.

Babenko told CNN that the group wasn't concerned that eight Russian arms manufacturing firms were also exhibiting at the fair. “[The Russians] know our anti-tank guided missiles very well.”

He spoke from the booth of the National Association of Ukrainian Defense Industries (NAUDI). Meanwhile, CNN approached delegations from three different Russian firms, as well as an organizer of the Russian pavilion, but all refused to speak.

Rosoboronexport, a firm that makes drones and missiles, however, said in a press release last week that it is “busy working out proposals for the forms of partnership that could be of immediate interest to Middle East nations.” 

12:44 p.m. ET, February 24, 2023

US Justice Department has seized $500 million in assets from pro-Russian figures since invasion

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one year ago, the US Justice Department has seized more than $500 million in yachts, properties and other assets from people who support the Russian government and have evaded US sanctions, according to a department news release.

The Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture — made up of federal prosecutors, investigators, and analysts — has targeted the web of wealth surrounding Russian oligarchs and Kremlin insiders. 

As part of that effort, the Justice Department announced a civil forfeiture complaint on Friday for $75 million in property owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. An associate of Vekselberg who allegedly helped the oligarch buy multimillion dollar properties in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Florida was indicted earlier this month for allegedly violating US sanctions and international money laundering. The Justice Department previously seized Vekselberg’s $90 million luxury yacht dubbed “Tango.”

In total, the department has seized two mega-yachts, moved to seize four airplanes, and has restrained and moved to forfeit 10 properties from Russian oligarchs and agents, according to department statistics.

Their work has also resulted in over 30 indictments against sanctioned supporters of the Kremlin and Russian military. There have been some arrests, but many of these defendants live in Russia and are unlikely to ever be apprehended or extradited.

On Friday, prosecutors unsealed a new indictment charging a Russian national with providing US communications equipment to the Russian Federal Security Service – the successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB — in violation of US sanctions. According to the indictment, Moscow resident Ilya Balakaev, 47, repeatedly traveled to the United States to purchase electronic equipment parts and bring them back to Russia. Balakaev allegedly set up a network of people within the US to help him buy the parts, which were not available in Russia, to fix equipment used for sweeping for surveillance bugs and to transmitting covert communications. 

12:42 p.m. ET, February 24, 2023

At least 487 children have been killed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Priests conduct the funeral service of Valeriia Hlodan, her three-month-old baby girl Kira and her mother Liudmyla Yavkina at Transfiguration Cathedral, Odesa, southern Ukraine, on April 27.
Priests conduct the funeral service of Valeriia Hlodan, her three-month-old baby girl Kira and her mother Liudmyla Yavkina at Transfiguration Cathedral, Odesa, southern Ukraine, on April 27. (Nina Liashonok/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, at least 487 children have been killed and 954 children have been injured, with the use of explosive weapons causing the most casualties, according to United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

These numbers are gross undercounts, said James Elder, global spokesperson of the UN agency, adding that the true numbers are far greater.

The war has pushed children into poverty, subjected them to great trauma and deprived them of education, Elder told CNN.

Elder described students studying in bunkers while they shelter from possible attacks.

However, "most school shelters cannot fit the numbers of students enrolled in the school, so many children have to still do online classes," which is hard given the state of conflict has made electricity supply and internet service unreliable, Elder said. "Bunkers are basically basements or something below ground. They offer protection from artillery, but it’s cold, sad and difficult."

Remember: In September, as schools prepared to open their doors, many educators were grappling with the fact that they don’t have the ability to provide safety to students or peace of mind to parents, should their schools come under attack.

“Our schools are not designed to be used as defensive facilities,” Serhii Horbachov, Ukraine’s education ombudsman, told CNN.

Four months after the invasion began, UNICEF had tried to restart schools in bunkers to ensure children could use bathrooms, have areas of play and could receive education, Elder said.

UNICEF told CNN it has completed the rehabilitation of 16 school shelters and plans to complete another 80 by July 2023.

With previous reporting from CNN's Tara John and Maria Kostenko

12:45 p.m. ET, February 24, 2023

Latest round of US aid for Ukraine will total $10 billion, secretary of state says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US President Joe Biden's administration is providing Ukraine with another $10 billion in assistance, including budgetary support for the government in Kyiv and help for Ukrainians suffering from the effects of Russian attacks on energy infrastructure, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Friday.

“This week, as a result of the bipartisan support of Congress, the United States began disbursing $9.9 billion in additional budgetary support to the Government of Ukraine,” Blinken said in a statement.

Blinken said the funding is “crucial to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia and ensures the Ukrainian government can continue to meet the critical needs of its citizens, including healthcare, education, and emergency services.”

He also asserted that continued US assistance has "helped rally" other countries — including Canada, Japan, the UK and those in the European Commission — to provide economic assistance.

“As Russia continues its relentless attacks on Ukrainian civilian and critical energy infrastructure, we are also working with Congress to provide additional energy assistance to Ukraine, a $250 million contribution that will enable us to address immediate needs, including critical power grid equipment,” Blinken said. “These funds will help keep schools open, power generators for hospitals running, and keep homes and shelters across Ukraine warm.”

3:15 p.m. ET, February 24, 2023

G7 leaders affirm support for Ukraine after virtual meeting with Zelensky

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

Leaders of the Group of 7 reaffirmed support for Ukraine and again called for an end to Russian aggression in the region shortly after the group met virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday.

In a statement one year after Russia’s full-scale invasion began, the G7 said it will provide “unwavering support for Ukraine for as long as it takes” and placed the blame for the war solely on Russia.  

“We call on Russia to stop its ongoing aggression and to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its troops from the entire internationally recognized territory of Ukraine,” according to the statement.

The statement called the war an “an attack on the fundamental principles of sovereignty of nations, territorial integrity of states and respect for human rights” and said that nuclear rhetoric by Russian President Vladimir Putin is “irresponsible” and “unacceptable.”

Leaders from the countries of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States are “united in our determination to hold President Putin and those responsible to account, consistent with international law,” it added.

See the White House's tweet on the meeting: