February 25, 2023 - Russia's war in Ukraine

By Nectar Gan, Andrew Raine, Sophie Tanno, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 0511 GMT (1311 HKT) February 26, 2023
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4:10 p.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Russia and China are the lone holdouts as G20 nations condemn war on Ukraine

From CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton 

Finance chiefs at a Group of 20 conference in India this weekend issued a joint statement condemning Moscow for its war in Ukraine, with only China and Russia declining to sign.

Nearly all countries in attendance agreed to condemn Russia's full-scale invasion, according to the chair summary and outcome issued as the meeting concluded Saturday. The countries signing the document said the war was adversely affecting the global economy and demanded Russia completely withdraw from Ukraine.

"Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks," it continued.
"There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy,” the document stated. 

The statement said "today's era must not be of war," adding that the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian law should be upheld.

“The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital,” it added.

India, the current chair of the G20 economies, hosted the meeting in the city of Bengaluru.

As Reuters reports, Russia and China's holdout forced India to issue a summary document wrapping up the two days of talks, rather than reaching a consensus on an official end-of-meeting communique.

Key context on China: On Friday, China's foreign ministry issued a position paper calling for a resumption of peace talks and an end to unilateral sanctions, and stressing its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons.

But Beijing’s claim to neutrality has been severely undermined by its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict – it has so far avoided calling it an “invasion” – and its diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.

Western officials have also raised concerns that China may be considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance, an accusation denied by Beijing.

China's top diplomat Wang Yi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

1:36 p.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Satellite images show destructive aftermath of Russia’s war in Ukraine

From Maria Kostenko in Kyiv and Radina Gigova in London

In the weeks leading up to the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country's eastern Donetsk region has seen some of the most intense fighting.

Donetsk has been under "constant" shelling by Russian forces, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the regional government, said in a Telegram post this week. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called the situation in the city of Bakhmut "the most difficult out of all" areas in Ukraine.

These satellite images from Maxar Technologies show the aftermath of recent shelling in the towns of Mykilske and Petrivka, both located in the eastern region.

(Maxar Technology/Reuters)
(Maxar Technology/Reuters)

This combination of satellite images shows a general view of the village Petrivka. The top image was taken in June 2022, and the bottom image was taken February 10, 2023, after heavy artillery shelling in the area.

(Maxar Technology/Reuters)
(Maxar Technology/Reuters)

This combination of satellite images shows the Svyato-Uspensky Mykolo-Vasilyivsky monastery in the town of Mykilske in the Donetsk region. The top image was taken in June 2022, and the bottom image was taken February 10, 2023, during fighting in the region.

CNN's Rebecca Wright contributed to this post.

1:17 p.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Ukraine lacks tanks and weaponry needed to push Russia back from front lines, Ukrainian lieutenant says

From CNN's Philip Wang

A Ukrainian military commander said Saturday that there are not "enough means" to push Russian forces back as they go on the offensive around the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Lt. Yevhenii Oropai, company commander of the Svoboda battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine, said on national television that the Russian military is "actively advancing" in Bakhmut and on the flanks in the area.

"Sometimes we lose our positions, and sometimes we have to attack and retake them. That is, the line of contact is constantly changing," Oropai said.

Oropai also said the military does not have "enough means" to push Moscow's troops back, with Russia ramping up its attack on the front line and the Ukrainians waiting for deliveries of Western weapons.

"We lack tanks, armored vehicles, airplanes and long-range artillery to make competent offensive actions without suffering heavy losses. It is very difficult to be an infantryman," he said.

The Ukrainian military said Saturday that Russia has made "several unsuccessful attempts" on settlements in the area surrounding Bakhmut.

1:18 p.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Ukrainian military claims it has held off recent Russian attacks on Bakhmut and other key areas

From Kostan Nechyporenko and CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire a howitzer near Bakhmut, on February 25.
Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire a howitzer near Bakhmut, on February 25. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

The Ukrainian military said Russian forces have recently launched unsuccessful assaults on its defensive lines in several regions, including around the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut.

The Russian assaults have also targeted Kupiansk and Lyman, in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, respectively, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said late Saturday.

Bakhmut: Russia has made "several unsuccessful attempts" on a cluster of settlements in the area surrounding Bakhmut, the Ukrainian military said.

The areas that have seen recent fighting include Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Berkhivka to the northwest of Bakhmut, and Ivanivske and Pivnichne to the southwest.

Ukraine's military said "the enemy keeps trying to break through the defenses and take Bakhmut" and that the commander of Ukraine's Eastern Military Group, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited units that are defending the city and surrounding villages.

"The Russian occupiers have focused their main efforts on taking Bakhmut and its surroundings. Fighting is taking place around the city and on its outskirts," the Ukrainian Ground Forces said on Telegram.

The post included images from Syrskyi's visit.

A Ukrainian serviceman patrols a street in Bakhmut, on Friday, February 24.
A Ukrainian serviceman patrols a street in Bakhmut, on Friday, February 24. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti carried a report showing a Russian soldier walking through the outskirts of Bakhmut. On video, he said, "The enemy is holding on, but their morale is low and occasionally they start to retreat. We have 1,740 meters (about a mile) left to go to frontline positions in the center of Bakhmut. The enemy is holding the defense but is exhausted."

CNN is unable to verify the soldier's claims on troop positioning.

Wagner claim: The head of the Russian private military company Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a Telegram audio message that his fighters took control of the village of Yahidne, a northern suburb of Bakhmut, Saturday evening.

CNN could not immediately verify Prigozhin's claim.

Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine: The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces have also attacked defensive lines near Avdiivka, to the north of Donetsk city, and Mariinka, to the southwest.

The military gave no indication that Moscow's troops had made any ground.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk region's military administration, said on Telegram that Avdiivka was under heavy enemy fire.

He said that in less than 24 hours, "the Russians shelled the city twice with artillery, once with tanks, launched an anti-aircraft missile strike, and also struck with Grads (rockets)."

A recently renovated school in the city had been destroyed by an air strike, Kyrylenko said.

1:10 p.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Watch: US country singer Brad Paisley features conversation with Ukraine's Zelensky on new song

Brad Paisley performs in Nashville, in 2022.
Brad Paisley performs in Nashville, in 2022. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

On a new song dedicated to Ukrainians, US country singer Brad Paisley incorporated a message of unity from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who he spoke with over a video call for the project.

Paisley, a platinum-selling artist and three-time Grammy Award winner, told CNN's Alisyn Camerota about his experience working with the Ukrainian leader.

"He's on the front line of democracy in the world," Paisley said of Zelensky.

12:50 p.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Zelensky plans to send some US lawmakers weapons wish list as GOP divide over war deepens

From CNN's Alayna Treene and Zachary Cohen

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a news conference in Kyiv, on Friday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a news conference in Kyiv, on Friday. (James McGill/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

As some outspoken Republican US lawmakers threaten to block future aid to Ukraine, a small group of GOP leaders from the House of Representatives traveled to the country this week.

The group vowed to consider a list of key weapons and other crucial necessities during a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, sources familiar with the meeting told CNN.

The visit, set against the backdrop of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion, is a stark example of the divide between some members of the Republican Party on how to handle US involvement in the war moving forward. The divide has only deepened since the GOP took over the House majority in January, even as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has carefully attempted to remain neutral on the issue.

It also comes at a time when US President Joe Biden is facing increasing pressure to supply Ukraine with more advanced weaponry, which some of his own military commanders have privately acknowledged could help Ukraine win the war.

Zelensky, who met with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and four other House GOP members, told the group he planned to send them a list of weapons, which includes F-16 fighter jets. He believes the aircraft are necessary to speed up the end of the war with Russia.

A top US military commander reiterated to a group of Republican lawmakers how imperative F-16 fighter jets and longer-range missiles would be to serve the Ukrainian cause, one of the sources said.

“There is a broad, bipartisan support between the United States and our NATO and European allies to support Ukraine against Russian aggression,” McCaul said during his congressional delegation to Ukraine. “(We) had a very productive meeting with President Zelensky. We talked primarily about what his needs are when it comes to winning this war. And he is providing this delegation with the list of the weapons the Ukraine needs to win.”
“He said we’ll stay here as long as it takes. And while that’s true, I hope it doesn’t take so long to win this conflict. And to do so, we have strong bipartisan support to give Ukraine everything that it needs to win,” McCaul added.

That position, however, may become increasingly untenable. Upcoming spending fights, congressional hearings and the 2024 presidential race will spotlight the question of whether to add to the $113 billion the US has already sent Ukraine, as some Republicans push back on the prospect of additional aid.

Read more here.

9:25 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Russia-backed separatists claim Ukraine's military is shelling Donetsk, state media reports

From Uliana Pavlova

Russian state media claimed that Ukraine’s military fired four large-caliber projectiles at the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk on Saturday.

Citing officials of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, the news agency RIA Novosti reported that Ukraine fired in the direction of the village of Tonenkoye outside the eastern city.

RIA Novosti said that four shells with a caliber of 155 millimeters were fired.

RIA’s report added that the United States had supplied Ukraine with long-range M777 howitzers and claimed that Ukrainian troops are "actively using them" to shell the cities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.

CNN cannot independently verify the claims.

Over the past few days, there appears to have been an uptick in long-range Ukrainian fire against parts of the Russian-occupied Donetsk region.

Earlier, the Ukrainians said that Russian units southwest of Donetsk city had carried out "unsuccessful offensive actions" at several places in the region.

Here's the current map of control:

9:04 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Russian troops killed and weapons destroyed in occupied city of Mariupol, Ukrainian mayor’s adviser claims

From Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

A resistance group says a Russian ammunition depot was destroyed and shells were detonated in Mariupol overnight into Saturday, according to Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the city's elected Ukrainian mayor.

Andriushchenko, who is not in Mariupol, said that several pieces of Russian armor had been destroyed and 50 Russian troops had been killed or badly injured in the strikes.

Social media accounts allege further heavy explosions have been heard in the Russian-occupied city.

CNN cannot independently confirm Andriushchenko's claims.

For the last few days, social media accounts have published nighttime video purportedly from Mariupol that has included the sound of heavy detonations.

There are heavy concentrations of Russian forces and equipment in the city.

10:07 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Biden dismisses China's proposal on Russia-Ukraine peace talks

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks in Warsaw, Poland, on February 21st.
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks in Warsaw, Poland, on February 21st. (Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden dismissed China's call for peace talks on the war in Ukraine, suggesting its implementation would only benefit Russia.

"If Putin is applauding it, so how could it be any good?" Biden said in an interview with ABC News on Friday. "I’m not being facetious. I’m being deadly earnest."

"I've seen nothing in the plan that would indicate that there is something that would be beneficial to anyone other than Russia if the Chinese plan were followed," Biden said. 

Beyond his criticism of the 12-point Chinese proposal, Biden outright rejected the notion of China negotiating peace in the war.

"The idea that China is going to be negotiating the outcome of a war that is a totally unjust war for Ukraine is just not rational," Biden said.

Biden also weighed in on the possibility of China providing lethal weapons to Russia, which US officials have warned of in recent days.

Biden declined to outline the consequences of China arming Russia, but suggested Beijing would face the same "severe sanctions" as any other government or entity that has supplied weapons to Russia.

Some background: The US has intelligence that the Chinese government is considering providing Russia with drones and ammunition for use in the war in Ukraine, three sources familiar with the intelligence told CNN.

It does not appear that Beijing has made a final decision yet, the sources said, but negotiations between Russia and China about the price and scope of the equipment are ongoing.

China's Foreign Ministry said Friday that the country takes a "responsible approach" to military exports and does not provide arms sales to conflict areas. The statement comes a day after a German media outlet claimed Beijing is negotiating with Moscow to supply drones.