February 26, 2024 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Antoinette Radford, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:15 a.m. ET, February 27, 2024
7 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
1:11 a.m. ET, February 26, 2024

Analysis: Why Zelensky’s plea will fall on many deaf Republican ears

From CNN's Stephen Collinson

President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference at the Ukraine Year 2024 forum in the capital Kyiv on February 25.
President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference at the Ukraine Year 2024 forum in the capital Kyiv on February 25. SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

There is a simple reason why many Republicans will snub Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s desperate plea for billions of dollars in arms and ammunition. Sending more taxpayer funds to a war on the edge of Europe is incompatible with the “America First” creed of a party dominated by ex-President Donald Trump.

The previous and possibly future commander in chief’s position is countered by President Joe Biden, who warns that allowing Russia to win would embolden an adversary that could threaten US security.

Their likely rematch means the 2024 election is about far more than who will run the United States for the next four years. It’s likely to decide the fate of Ukraine, the shape of the Western world, and the nature of US global power.

Zelensky appealed to the Republican-led House to unblock the latest US aid package after Ukraine marked the second anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked invasion amid increasing signs the war is tilting Moscow’s way as Ukrainian soldiers run out of bullets.

He told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in an interview in Kyiv on Sunday that Republicans such as Trump ally Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance – who have been speaking out against more Ukraine aid – do not comprehend the stakes of the conflict.

“To understand it is to come to the front line to see what’s going on, to speak with the people, then to go to civilians to understand … what will (happen to) them without this support. And he will understand that millions … will be killed. It’s a fact,” Zelensky said in an advance clip from the interview released on Sunday.

The full interview is due to air on CNN on Monday.

Read more of the analysis here.

12:11 a.m. ET, February 26, 2024

Zelensky says at least 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the war with Russia. Here's what to know

From CNN Staff

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said at least 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the war with Russia, in a rare admission of his country's losses.

Zelensky disputed Russian claims of much higher numbers when it comes to Ukrainian casualties. The Ukrainian president also said tens of thousands of civilians in occupied parts of the country have been killed. 

CNN cannot independently verify these numbers. Ukraine's battlefield losses are a closely guarded secret, but US officials estimate some 70,000 soldiers have been killed — and nearly twice that number wounded.

In his speech on Sunday, Zelensky reiterated his hope that the US would pass a bill through Congress to provide the nation with more funding.

He rejected comments from Republican US Sen. J.D. Vance that more US funding would not change the outcome of the war, telling CNN's Kaitlan Collins that “millions will be killed” if the US does not send aid.

Here are the latest developments in the conflict:

  • Aid arrives late: Ukraine's defense minister said that half of the military aid pledged to his country arrives late, costing Kyiv's forces on the battlefield. He blamed the delays on what he called a "dynamic and changing" situation and said "allied forces must provide supplies on time."
  • Schumer urges aid: US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for more aid to Ukraine after returning from his visit to the country. It adds to mounting pressure on US House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring a Ukraine aid bill up for a vote as concern grows about Kyiv's dwindling ammunition stockpiles.
  • War crimes: Ukraine's top prosecutor has said 350 Russian war crimes cases are before Ukrainian courts. More than 20 countries have opened investigations into possible Russian crimes against Ukrainian citizens, including the United States, he said.
  • "Bolder" action: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the West must be "bolder" in its support for Ukraine to stave off Russia's military advance. Writing in Britain's The Sunday Times, Sunak called on Kyiv's partners to supply the country with more weapons. His remarks come a day after G7 leaders said they remained committed to supporting Ukraine for "as long as it takes."
  • Voting in Zaporizhzhia: In the latest example of the Kremlin trying to enforce legitimacy in occupied parts of Ukraine, a Russian presidential election is underway in the southern region, according to state media. President Vladimir Putin is all but certain to win.
  • More sanctions over Navalny: Australia has imposed financial sanctions and travel bans on seven Russian prison officers it accuses of mistreating Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny at the Siberian penal colony where he died earlier this month. The US and EU enacted fresh sanctions against Russia last week in response to Navalny's death and Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

6:08 a.m. ET, February 26, 2024

Australia sanctions Russian prison officials over Navalny's death

From CNN’s Angus Watson in Sydney

Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles speaks during a press conference aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Canberra in Sydney, Australia, on February 20.
Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles speaks during a press conference aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Canberra in Sydney, Australia, on February 20. David Gray/AFP/Getty Images

Australia on Monday imposed financial sanctions and travel bans on seven Russian prison officers it accuses of mistreating Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny at the Siberian penal colony where he died earlier this month.

“Australia holds President Putin and the Russian Government responsible for Mr Navalny’s treatment and death in custody,” Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said in a statement.

The Kremlin has denied having anything to do with Navalny’s death.

Australia has hit Russian individuals with multiple rounds of “Magnitsky-style” human rights sanctions since December 2022, when it first applied penalties to Russians accused of poisoning Navalny in 2020. 

The United States and European Union enacted fresh sanctions against Russia last week in response to Navalny's death and Moscow's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

11:49 p.m. ET, February 25, 2024

Zelensky tells CNN "millions will be killed" in Ukraine without more US aid

From CNN's Ivana Kottasova, Andy Carey and Madalena Araujo in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 25.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 25. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN that “millions will be killed” in the war against Russia if US lawmakers don’t approve President Joe Biden’s request for $60 billion of military aid to the country.

Asked by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins about a statement made by Republican US Sen. J.D. Vance that the outcome of the war would not change even if Ukraine receives the money, Zelensky said he wasn’t sure Vance “understands what is going on here.”

“To understand it, is to come to the front line to see what's going on, to speak with the people, then to go to civilians to understand … what will (happen to) them without this support. And he will understand that millions (of) people … will be killed. It's a fact,” Zelensky said. 

What Vance said: Earlier this month, Vance argued that the Senate-passed plan for Ukraine “is not going to fundamentally change the reality on the battlefield.” He said the US doesn’t have the manufacturing capacity to pump out sufficient ammunition for Ukraine and still address its own needs.

Instead, he called for a negotiated peace with Russia to end the war and complained there was no clear endgame for US policy.

More background: Ukraine has for months warned that it is running out of armaments. Zelensky said at a news conference earlier Sunday — just one day after the second anniversary of the war — that he was still hopeful more US funding might soon be approved.

US House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, is under increasing pressure to bring the Senate bill up for a vote. He has so far resisted calls to do so, at risk of a likely revolt from members of his own party.

11:59 p.m. ET, February 25, 2024

Schumer urges more US funding for Ukraine

From CNN's Antoinette Radford

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attends a press conference in Lviv, Ukraine, on February 23.
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attends a press conference in Lviv, Ukraine, on February 23. Roman Baluk/Reuters

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a warning Sunday about the need to supply more aid to Ukraine and vowed not to "abandon" the European ally.

Speaking after returning from a trip to Ukraine, Schumer said this year is a "crucial moment in the history of the world," adding that a Ukrainian loss to Russia would also be "devastating in consequences for the US."

“This is a turning point, an inflection point as to the United States’ ability to project itself — our strengths, our powers, our abilities — in the world," he said. "When we went there, we told the Ukrainian people: America will not abandon you."

Key areas of need: The Senate leader addressed some key areas where Ukraine needed more supplies, including artillery shells, more weapons to disrupt Russian supply networks, and more anti-aircraft weaponry.

Schumer provided a few examples of ways that Ukraine is struggling to wage its war, including that he met a Ukrainian drone operator who was able to identify Russian artillery, but no longer had the ammunition to destroy it.

Schumer also said Russian forces could fire their artillery much longer than Ukrainian artillery could fire back.

"The Russians can stand further back, hit the Ukrainians, and the Ukrainians can't hit them back," he said.

Remember: US House Speaker Mike Johnson is under increasing pressure to bring Ukraine aid up for a vote, after Schumer and the Senate passed a package that would provide over $60 billion in assistance. He has so far resisted calls to do so, however, at risk of a likely revolt from members of his own party.

11:47 p.m. ET, February 25, 2024

Zelensky says Russia could attempt new offensive as early as late May

From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova in Kyiv 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that Russia could attempt a new offensive as early as late May or early summer.

"They will prepare, and we will prepare for their fight," he said Sunday at a news conference in Kyiv.

His comments come as the president reiterates his nation's need for more weaponry to continue the fight against Russia.

Half of all military aid pledged to Ukraine arrives late, the country's defense minister said at a conference in Kyiv on Sunday, as concern grows about Ukraine's dwindling stockpiles of ammunition.

Zelensky added that the coming months would be difficult for his country because there's political uncertainty in the US.

“The US elections will be a turning point,” he said.

The Ukrainian leader said earlier Sunday that the country is enduring its “most difficult moment,” but that he still has faith at home and abroad.

"If we all fall apart — externally with our partners and, God forbid, internally — then this will be the weakest moment. So far, this has not happened,” Zelensky said.

12:08 a.m. ET, February 26, 2024

Zelensky says at least 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the war with Russia

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

A Ukrainian serviceman prepares a shell for a drone at his position at a front line near the town of Avdiivka, in Ukraine's Donetsk region, on February 20.
A Ukrainian serviceman prepares a shell for a drone at his position at a front line near the town of Avdiivka, in Ukraine's Donetsk region, on February 20. Inna Varenytsia/Reuters

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said at least 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the war with Russia, in a rare admission of his country's losses.

Zelensky disputed Russian statements of much higher numbers when it comes to Ukrainian casualties. The Ukrainian president also said tens of thousands of civilians in occupied parts of the country have been killed. 

CNN cannot independently verify these numbers. Ukraine's battlefield losses are a closely guarded secret, but US officials estimate some 70,000 soldiers have been killed — and nearly twice that number wounded.

Some context: Throughout the conflict, Kyiv has been hesitant to admit how many soldiers have been killed. Former Ukrense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in June 2022 that he believed tens of thousands of Ukrainians had been killed since February of that year. But two months later, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, then the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, said 9,000 troops had been killed.

Russia, meanwhile, has lost a staggering 87% of the active-duty ground troops it had before the invasion, a source familiar with a declassified US intelligence assessment provided to Congress told CNN in December.