US Treasury secretary says she expects to see "an increasing toll on Russia’s economic trajectory over time"
From CNN's Alicia Wallace
While the Russian economy has not yet buckled under the wide array of sanctions from the United States and other Western countries, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday she expects it to grow weaker over time as the country loses foreign investment and runs through its reserves and rainy-day funds.
“We will see an increasing toll on Russia’s economic trajectory over time,” she told CNN in an exclusive interview during her unannounced visit to Kyiv. “And their ability to replenish the military equipment that’s been destroyed in their attacks on Ukraine — that’s been very greatly jeopardized.”
Such a move would bring “severe” consequences, Yellen said.
“We have been extremely clear that we will not tolerate systematic violations by any country of the sanctions that we have put in place that are intended to deprive Russia of access to military equipment to wage this war,” she said. “And we have been very clear with the Chinese government and have made clear to Chinese firms and financial institutions that the consequences of violating those sanctions would be very severe.”
12:54 p.m. ET, February 27, 2023
US "very much" hopes Russia still interested in arms control, State Department official says
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
The United States “very much” hopes that Russia is still interested in arms control, but recent comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin call that interest into question, a top State Department official said Monday.
“It’s obviously in their domestic interest, and in our interest, and in the global security interest for us to continue to have these discussions,” Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Mallory Stewart said at an event at Brookings Institution.
“We will meet with them. We need to meet with them. It’s something that both countries need to do to continue to focus on international stability and risk reduction,” she said.
However, Stewart noted that “the communications that we’ve heard from Putin seem to place in doubt the assumptions that we’ve always had that they do value arms control.”
“By tying it to Ukraine right now, tying it to an immovable object in the sense that our support for Ukraine will not be limited by their New START decision, they’re really placing in doubt their support for the treaty itself,” she said.
Stewart said Monday that the message about the willingness to sit down on arms control had been conveyed at every level.
12:29 p.m. ET, February 27, 2023
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen makes unannounced trip to Kyiv to reaffirm economic support for Ukraine
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made an unannounced trip to Kyiv Monday “to reaffirm our unwavering support of the Ukrainian people,” she wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times, stressing US economic support to Ukraine is “more vital than ever.”
"We cannot allow Ukraine to lose the war for economic reasons when it has shown an ability to succeed on the battlefield. Ukraine’s military resistance depends on a government that can function effectively, as well as a stable economy that can help finance defense efforts over the long term. By fortifying the ‘home front,’ our economic assistance is helping make possible Ukraine’s stalwart frontline defense against Russia,” she wrote.
“While in Kyiv, Secretary Yellen is announcing the most recent transfer of a tranche of $1.25 billion in economic and budgetary assistance from the U.S. to Ukraine,” a Treasury Department official said.
Yellen met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss ongoing US economic support and “highlighted the efforts of the U.S. and its global coalition to impose severe sanctions on Russia to degrade its war machine and limit the revenue it has to fund its brutal war,” according to a Treasury Department readout.
Yellen will also meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, the official said.
“Mr. Putin is counting on our global coalition’s resolve to wane, which he thinks will give him the upper hand in the war. But he is wrong. As President Biden said here last week, America will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Yellen wrote in the New York Times.
12:12 p.m. ET, February 27, 2023
After fleeing war, Ukrainian ballet dancers in the Netherlands hope to keep their culture alive
From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury
While Russia's war in Ukraine rages on, a group of refugees in The Hague, Netherlands, have used their talents to help preserve Ukrainian culture and raise awareness for the dire situation in their country.
The United Ukrainian Ballet was formed soon after Russia invaded Ukraine just over one year ago. At the time, two Ukrainian dancers, Stanislav Olshanskyi and Alexis Tuttunique, were touring with Dutch prima ballerina Igone de Jongh and the pair sought refuge in The Hague with the help of fellow dancers, according to the non-profit ballet company's website.
With aid from organizations like the Salvation Army and Senf Theaterpartners, a Dutch production company, provisions were made for a group of Ukrainian dancers and their families to find refuge and training in the Netherlands, Stefan Stolk, producer and managing director of operations of the United Ukrainian Ballet, told CNN.
Stolk, who works for Senf Theatepartners, said the company had connections to ballet companies in the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Lviv, and were able to get in touch with dancers and let them know about the safe haven.
The ballet company and its partners, including mayor of The Hague, Jan van Zanen, were able to temporarily secure and renovate the former Hague Conservatory — which was set to be demolished — as a location to house refugees and allow them to continue ballet training.
Initially the conservatory housed only women dancers and their families, due to Ukraine restricting men ages 18 to 65 from traveling out of the country. By the middle of April 2022, they had about 35 to 40 women, Stolk told CNN.
At its peak, the conservatory housed more than 200 refugees, 70 to 75 of which were dancers, he added. Today, the company still is home to more than 60 dancers.
An outlet in a dark time: Stolk said many dancers came with a heavy weight on their hearts, but once they began training again, "you could see everyone forget all the sorrow and trouble."
"I thought, 'This is what we’re working at, this is what we do.' It was really breathtaking," he told CNN.
Later in 2022, the company received special permission from the Ukrainian government, with help from Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, to allow some young men to join the company. Stolk said the government sanctioned the exception in an effort “to keep the story alive of Ukraine and Ukrainian culture."
As the number of refugees grew, a foundation was formed to help support and sustain the project's efforts.
Bringing Ukraine to the world: Since last March, the company has performed around the world, a feat that would take an average company years to organize. With the help of renowned choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, dancers have performed "Gisele" in the Netherlands, London, Singapore and the United States, with plans to perform a new show in Taiwan and other countries later this year.
"Bringing the story of Ukraine, and that is really what the mission statement is," Stolk said. "We know one thing: When we come perform there in a certain country, we are front page, and this helps to keep this all alive."
Stolk said it's important to show the world that Ukraine is more than just the war.
The company is also trying to make sure that a generation of Ukrainian dancers aren’t forgotten, given that a dancer's career is usually only about 10 years, and many were already stifled by Covid-19 shutdowns before the war broke out.
“It would be a complete forgotten generation of dancers, and now we give them wings," Stolk said.
A painful anniversary: While the group's triumphs hearten the refugees, the war still weighs heavy on the dancers as they have daily reminders of the war through contact with loved ones back in Ukraine. Last week brought the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, and the ballet company dancers requested use of the old conservatory’s main stage area, to perform and be with one another as a form of support.
They said “we want to have a day with each other," Stolk said. They performed Ukrainian folk dances, song and read poems, and “no one could keep dry eyes.”
The company's latest show, "Dancing in Defiance," is more catered to the Ukrainian dancers and features three performances. The first performance "Wartime Elegy" is described as a celebration of Ukrainian culture. Stolk said it's the choreographer, Kamansty's, response to the war. The music composed for the show also has influence of Ukrainian folk music.
“It’s tribute to joy," Stolk told CNN. "How people are still there. They are resilient.”
12:07 p.m. ET, February 27, 2023
US State Department official: Russia's suspension of New START hasn't come into force yet
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
Russia’s suspension of participation in a key nuclear arms control treaty hasn’t come into force yet, a top State Department official said Monday, but she expects certain treaty notifications will cease once it’s finalized.
“The suspension hasn’t been officially affected yet in the sense that we’re still receiving notifications, as recently as today, under the treaty, regular notifications,” Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Mallory Stewart said at an event at Brookings Institution.
“But we expect that as soon as that suspension has been formalized, that those will stop,” she said.
Some more context: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that Russia would suspend its participation in New START – the only remaining agreement between the world’s largest nuclear arsenals. US officials have condemned this move as “irresponsible.”
Stewart said the United States is “trying to follow up” with the Russians “to truly understand what else could be included in the suspension, and what could be continued.”
“Right now we expect it will just be the launch notifications under that 1988 agreement, and that they said they’ll abide by the actual numerical limitations,” she said.
Under the treaty, both sides give “pre‑launch notifications of the launch of treaty‑accountable ballistic missiles,” according to the State Department.
9:54 a.m. ET, February 27, 2023
It's mid-afternoon in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know
From CNN's staff
Two Ukrainian rescue workers have been killed amid a wave of Russian drone attacks, although air defenses shot down 11 of 14 drones launched by Moscow, according to Ukrainian authorities.
Elsewhere, UN chief Antonio Guterres has said that the Russian invasion has set off "the most massive violations of human rights."
Here are the latest headlines:
Two killed in drone strike: Two rescue workers responding to a drone attack in Ukraine's Khmelnytskyi region were killed when Russian forces struck the same site for a second time, according to Ukraine's minister of internal affairs. Three more people were injured.
Two wounded in shelling: At least two people have been wounded by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine over the last 24 hours, according to a local official.
Ukraine repels drone attacks: Ukraine scrambled its air defenses early Monday after Russia launched attacks with Iran-made drones, the Ukrainian military said. Ukrainian authorities said 11 of 14 Shahed drones launched by Russia were shot down, with the majority destroyed near Kyiv, according to preliminary estimates.
Moscow focusing offensives on eastern Ukraine: Russian forces are focusing their efforts on conducting offensive operations in eastern Ukraine, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said. Ukrainian forces repelled 81 Russian attacks around Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk over the last 24 hours, it said.
UN chief deplores human rights abuses: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered "the most massive violations of human rights we are living [through] today," United Nations Secretary-General Guterres said Monday. "It has unleashed widespread death, destruction and displacement," Guterres continued.
Kremlin declines to comment on military support from Beijing: The Kremlin has declined to comment on CNN reporting that China is considering providing drones and ammunition to Russia for use in the Ukraine war.
Moldova tensions continue: Moscow is concerned about the situation in Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria and is closely monitoring developments there, the Kremlin said Monday. Russia has been accused of laying the groundwork for a coup in Moldova, a small country on Ukraine's southwestern border, that could drag the nation into the Kremlin’s war.
7:27 a.m. ET, February 27, 2023
Moscow concerned about the situation in Moldova, says Kremlin
From CNN’s Anna Chernova and Radina Gigova
Moscow is concerned about the situation in Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria and is closely monitoring developments there, the Kremlin said Monday.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said “the situation in Transnistria is the object of our closest attention and cause for concern.”
Peskov alleged that the situation has been “provoked externally” and warned of possible “provocations” from Kyiv and European countries.
Tensions have been mounting in Moldova, as the country's President Maia Sandu has accused Russia of using “saboteurs” to stoke unrest amid a period of political instability, echoing similar warnings from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Some context: Russia has been accused of laying the groundwork for a coup in Moldova, a small country on Ukraine's southwestern border, that could drag the nation into the Kremlin’s war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has meanwhile baselessly accused Kyiv of planning its own assault on a pro-Russian territory in Moldova where Moscow has a military foothold, heightening fears that he is creating a pretext for a Crimea-style annexation.
6:31 a.m. ET, February 27, 2023
At least two injured in shelling in Donetsk region, says local official
From CNN's Olga Voitivych and Radina Gigova
At least two people have been wounded by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine over the last 24 hours, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk region military administration.
One person was wounded in Kurakhove and several buildings in the area were also damaged, he said.
One person was wounded and three houses were damaged in Kostiantynivka, added Kyrylenko.
And in Avdiivka "there were sporadic incomings during the night, and in the morning - two massive attacks on residential and industrial areas," Kyrylenko said.
The towns of Vuhledar, Novoukrainka and Bohoiavlenka also came under fire, he added.
6:21 a.m. ET, February 27, 2023
Two rescue workers dead and three injured in Khmelnytskyi drone attack, says Ukrainian interior minister
From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Radina Gigova
Two rescue workers who were responding to a drone attack in Ukraine's Khmelnytskyi region were killed when Russian forces struck the same site for a second time, according to Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs.
"Today, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry team lost two rescuers: 21-year-old Vladyslav Dvorak and 31-year-old Serhii Sevruk," Ihor Klymenko said Monday.
"Together with their colleagues from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, they were eliminating the consequences of a Russian UAV attack in Khmelnytskyi region overnight. And then the enemy attacked again. Deliberately at our unarmed heroes," he added.
"Two of them died. Three more rescuers were wounded. Now doctors are providing them with all the necessary assistance," said Klymenko.