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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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.

8:39 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Ukraine reports many Russian attacks along front lines, including in Bakhmut and Kharkiv

From CNN's Tim Lister and Uliana Pavlova

Ukrainian servicemen of the 80th Independent Air Assault Brigade fire rounds towards Russian targets near Bakhmut on Friday.
Ukrainian servicemen of the 80th Independent Air Assault Brigade fire rounds towards Russian targets near Bakhmut on Friday. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

The Ukrainian military says that Friday saw a high level of rocket attacks and airstrikes by Russian forces in areas along the front lines.

Russia launched 27 airstrikes and 75 multiple launch rocket attacks in addition to artillery barrages, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in its report early Saturday.

Fierce fighting continues around the eastern city of Bakhmut. The General Staff said that "the enemy continues to attack the positions of our troops, carried out several unsuccessful attacks near the settlements of Berkhivka, Ivanovske, and Severne," and continued to shell more than a dozen places in the immediate vicinity of Bakhmut.

A prominent Russian military blogger, who goes by the name WarGonzo, said that fighters of the Wagner private military company had "attacked in several directions at once," around Bakhmut. He claimed "a slight advance" to the east of the city and repeated Wagner's claim that it now controls Berkhivka, a village north-west of Bakhmut. 

"In all these areas, PMC 'Wagner' operated with the support of artillery," WarGonzo said. "Thus, now the main pressure on the Ukrainian garrison in Bakhmut comes from the north."

Unofficial Ukrainian military accounts have given a similar picture of the fighting around Bakhmut, with most access routes to the city from the west and north-west cut off.

To the southwest of Donetsk city, another zone that sees almost constant battles, the Ukrainians said that Russian units had carried out "unsuccessful offensive actions" at several places in the region.

Russian military bloggers have also reported offensive actions in several areas of this front, including Mariinka, which has been almost obliterated by the fighting.  

The Ukrainian General Staff also reported an uptick of cross-border shelling into the Kharkiv region, saying 23 communities had been affected - including the border town of Vovchansk.

In the south, according to the General Staff, at least 34 places in Kherson region came under artillery attack from Russian positions on the east bank of the Dnipro. It also claimed that "The russian invaders are searching houses and seizing boats and other watercraft."

The General Staff also claimed that in the occupied city of Mariupol, people were being denied new housing for lack of paperwork.

"Having destroyed more than 80% of the housing stock of Mariupol, the enemy offers the victims of these bombings housing in new buildings on the outskirts of the destroyed city. However, counting on the fact that the documents confirming the right of ownership were destroyed along with the housing, the occupants cynically put forward the requirement as a mandatory condition for obtaining new housing."

CNN cannot verify the claim.

What Russia says: The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces have carried out attacks with aviation and artillery along the Luhansk-Kharkiv region border and claims to have "defeated enemy units in the areas of the settlements of Masyutovka, Ivanovka in Kharkiv region and Novoselivske" in Luhansk.

The ministry also claimed that Russian units had killed up to 60 Ukrainian troops, as well as destroyed a US-made M777 artillery system.

The Russian claims cannot be verified, but geolocated video shows Ukrainian units under fire in the area. It's unclear whether Russian forces have been able to advance in the area.

The ministry said Russian forces had carried out artillery and thermobaric attacks on Ukrainian positions in areas west of the city of Kreminna in Luhansk, and it claimed to have inflicted heavy losses on the Ukrainians in that area.

10:09 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Thousands of Eurovision tickets to be allocated to displaced Ukrainians

From CNN's Gabby Gretener

The Eurovision logo is seen during the song contest in 2019.
The Eurovision logo is seen during the song contest in 2019. (Pavlo Conchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

The UK government has announced 3,000 Eurovision tickets will be made available for displaced Ukrainians living in the UK to attend the European song contest in Liverpool in May. 

They will be able to apply for tickets to all nine live shows, including the final on May 13, the government said.

In a press release, UK Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, said her government is "determined to make sure the Ukrainian people are at the heart of this event." 
Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, said he hopes the tickets will "allow our compatriots here to enjoy the event and celebrate our country’s rich culture and music."

The government also announced nearly $12 million in funding to the host city Liverpool. The money will be used to financially support Liverpool city council and national broadcaster, BBC, who are partnering with Ukrainian artists and performer to "ensure a collaborative show celebrating music and how it unites people from around the world."

The Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson said the host city is working with their Ukrainian community to shape "a thought-provoking and powerful programme that is all-encompassing and representative of modern Ukraine – inspiring, poignant, funny, beautiful and moving."

The theme of Eurovision 2023 is "United by Music" with the first semi finals to start on May 9. 

7:48 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Macron says Beijing must help put pressure on Moscow as he announces China trip

From CNN's Saskya Vandoorne

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a press conference in Munich, Germany, on February 17.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a press conference in Munich, Germany, on February 17. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron says Beijing must help Western countries pile pressure on Moscow as he announced an upcoming trip to China in April.

President Macron did not mention if he will meet China’s President Xi Jinping but highlighted China's possible role in Ukraine after Beijing released a peace plan.

"Everything that goes towards peace is good, but this peace is possible only if Russia ends its aggression, withdraws its troops and starts respecting Ukraine's territorial sovereignty, so Ukraine has to give its terms, but I think the fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing.

"I will go to China in early April. China needs to help us put pressure on Russia to ensure it never uses chemical or nuclear weapons and it stops this aggression prior to negotiations," Macron said.

Some context: China called for a political settlement to end the Ukraine conflict on Friday, urging the resumption of peace talks.

But while the document “said the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld,” it did not acknowledge Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.

An adviser to Ukraine's president called China's plan "unrealistic".

7:55 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

One year on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, MMA fighter Yaroslav Amosov returns to the cage

From CNN's Matias Grez

One year and a day on from Russia’s invasion of his home country of Ukraine, Bellator MMA world champion Yaroslav Amosov will return to the cage to defend his title.

Amosov’s welterweight bout against Britain’s Michael Page was originally scheduled for May 2022, but was postponed when he returned to Ukraine to help in the war effort.

Page then fought against American Logan Storley for the interim welterweight championship and lost, meaning Amosov will now fight Storley for the title at Bellator 291 in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday.

Amosov’s involvement in the war first became widely known in April last year, when a video he posted of himself recovering his world championship belt from the rubble of his home in Irpin went viral.

“It’s a year since the big war started and for me it’s a big motivation because I understand what happened and what’s going on now in my country,” a visibly emotional Amosov said at a press conference on Thursday.
“I understand that it’s been a very hard year for all Ukrainians."
“When the Russian soldiers left central Ukraine, I took my belt and many people – my friends, my team, manager and coach – told me: ‘You must go and defend your belt. Now, your work is as a mediator – you must win this fight, you must talk.’
“So I want to talk about this but it’s hard sometimes, for my country and me it’s hard, but I understand I must do this.”

Read the full story here.

6:58 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Belarus's Lukashenko engaged in extended talks with President Putin on anniversary of Russian invasion

From CNN's Uliana Pavlova

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks to members of the media in Minsk, Belarus, on February 16.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks to members of the media in Minsk, Belarus, on February 16. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says had a long phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday - the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine - according to Belarus state news agency BelTA.

“I’ll tell you a secret, last night we talked with him for a long time on various topics,” Lukashenko told reporters, according to BelTA.

“Listen, God forbid that we have a relationship that it always be like that.”

It comes after Lukashenko recently claimed there is “no way” his country would send troops into Ukraine unless it is attacked, amid fears Russia’s close ally will help to facilitate a spring offensive by Moscow.

“We are peaceful people. We know what war is and we don’t want war,” the authoritarian leader Lukashenko, who has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said at a small gathering of journalists from international media, including CNN, at Minsk’s Palace of Independence

“There is no way we are going to send our troops to Ukraine unless you are going to commit aggression against Belarus,” Lukashenko said. “But don’t forget Russia is our ally, legally, morally and politically,” he added.

Some context: Belarus helped Russia launch its initial invasion of Ukraine last February, allowing the Kremlin’s troops to enter the country through the 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) Ukrainian-Belarusian border to the north of Kyiv.

Minsk has since claimed on numerous occasions that Ukrainian drones and missiles have entered its territory, sometimes without providing evidence.

There have been fears throughout the conflict that Belarus will again be used as a launching ground for another offensive, or that Lukashenko’s own troops will join the conflict, citing such episodes as provocation against its sovereignty.

Tensions have been mounting at the border again in recent days as Ukraine braces for a renewed attack.

5:37 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Ukrainian official criticizes China for "betting on an aggressor"

From CNN's Sophie Tanno

Adviser to President Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, speaks during an interview with AFP in Kyiv on January 10.
Adviser to President Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, speaks during an interview with AFP in Kyiv on January 10. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images/FILE)

Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian politician who advises President Volodymyr Zelensky, has hit out at China for "betting on an aggressor" after Beijing repeated its call for a political settlement to the Ukraine war.

"If you claim to be a global player, you don't offer an unrealistic plan," he tweeted.

"You don't bet on an aggressor who broke international law and will lose the war."

On Friday China released a paper outlining its position on Ukraine.

In it, China’s Foreign Ministry called for a resumption of peace talks, stressed its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons, and an end to unilateral sanctions, an apparent criticism of measures opposed by the US and the West.

China has sought to present itself as neutral over the conflict, but has so far avoided calling it an invasion and has kept up diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.

Zelensky said Friday Ukraine "will work with China" if they show respect for international law and territorial integrity. The Ukrainian president said he would like to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Also on Friday, US President Joe Biden said that there's no evidence "so far" that China will militarily back Russia in Ukraine, while warning any support would have economic ramifications for Beijing.

5:01 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

Nikopol district in southern Ukraine hit by Russian shells overnight

From CNN's Josh Pennington

Russian forces shelled the southern Ukrainian Nikopol district nine times overnight Friday into Saturday, according to the head of the Dnipropetrovsk region military administration. 

Russian shelling hit the cities of Nikopol and Marhanets, but no casualties were reported, Serhii Lysak said in a Telegram post on Saturday. 

In the Nikopol city, three schools, an administrative building, two private enterprises, a shop, 10 high-rise buildings, 11 houses, outbuildings, cars, gas mains and a power line were damaged.

In the Marhanets city, 12 houses, 10 outbuildings, a gas main and a power line were damaged.

A car caught on fire but has been extinguished, Lysak said. 

1:47 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023

American Army veteran dies in action while fighting for Ukraine

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai 

An American Army veteran from Marshfield, Wisconsin, died in action on February 16 in Ukraine, according to CNN affiliate WSAW-TV.  

"We can confirm the deaths of US citizens in Ukraine,” a spokesperson for the US State Department told CNN on Friday. "We are in touch with their respective families and are providing all possible consular assistance.”  

Andrew Peters, 28, joined the International Legion of Defense of Ukraine, WSAW-TV reported. The legion was created by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to allow foreign citizens, “to join the resistance against the Russian occupants and fight for global security,” according to the legion’s official website.   

“Andrew had a strong sense of what was right and wrong. He felt the need to use his prior military combat skills to help the Ukrainian people fight and liberate their country. Andrew was extremely close to his fellow soldiers and was well-liked by everyone. We are all extremely proud of his bravery and selfless sacrifice," Peters' parents said in a statement, according to WSAW-TV.

Peters served a tour in Afghanistan in 2014, the affiliate said.