February 20, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Rob Picheta, Leinz Vales, Eve Brennan, Ed Upright, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:24 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023
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6:00 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023

Biden announces half-billion dollars in assistance to Ukraine on surprise trip

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden announced a half-billion dollars of additional assistance to Ukraine during a surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday.

Biden, in joint remarks alongside Ukrainian President Zelensky, said the package would include more military equipment, including artillery ammunition, more javelins and Howitzers.

Zelensky said he and Biden spoke about “long range weapons and the weapons that may still be supplied to Ukraine even though it wasn’t supplied before.” 

In remarks, Biden spoke about the resilience of the Ukrainian resistance as the war enters its second year.

One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said. 

Biden met with Zelensky, as well as first lady Olena Zelenska, at Kyiv's presidential palace on Monday.

The historic visit comes just days before the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of the country.

5:30 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023

Biden’s Ukraine trip comes after multiple invitations from Zelensky

US President Joe Biden (R) walks next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) as he arrives for a visit in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 20.
US President Joe Biden (R) walks next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) as he arrives for a visit in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 20. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited US President Joe Biden to visit Kyiv months ago, saying he believed it was important for the US leader to see the situation up close.

As recently as last week, Zelensky said his invitation for Biden to visit Ukraine remained open.

"President Biden and I meet occasionally. You know that we have invited the President. I think he will be happy to visit Ukraine if he has the opportunity. That would be an important signal to support our nation,” Zelensky said on February 15.

Zelensky traveled to Washington in December to meet Biden in the Oval Office and speak to a joint session of Congress — his first trip outside Ukraine since the war began.

5:06 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023

BREAKING: President Biden makes surprise first visit to Ukraine since Russian invasion began

US President Joe Biden with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Ukrainian Presidential Palace, Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 20.
US President Joe Biden with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Ukrainian Presidential Palace, Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 20. (Pool)

US President Joe Biden has made a surprise visit to Ukraine early Monday — his first trip to the country since Russia’s invasion began nearly one year ago.

Biden's trip is a show of support for Kyiv that comes at a critical moment in the conflict, as Russia prepares for an expected spring offensive. 

4:47 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023

Air raid sirens sound in Kyiv and around Ukraine

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in London

Air raid sirens were activated across Ukraine on Monday morning, including in the capital Kyiv, the country’s authorities and CNN teams on the ground reported. 

“Please proceed to the shelters!” authorities in Kyiv said in their official Telegram channel.

4:07 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023

China says US "is not qualified to lecture" on supplying arms to Russia

From CNN's Beijing bureau 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks at a news conference in Beijing on August 18.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks at a news conference in Beijing on August 18. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

China's Foreign Ministry on Monday said the United States "is not qualified to lecture" on the supplying of arms amid concerns from US officials that Beijing is considering providing "lethal support" to Russia's military.

Speaking to reporters, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: "It is the US side, not the Chinese side, that supplies a steady stream of weapons to the battlefield."

"The US side is not qualified to lecture China, and we would never accept the US dictating or even coercing pressure on Sino-Russian relations," he said.

"Who is calling for dialogue and peace and who is handing out knives and encouraging confrontation?"

Wang added that China continues to "urge peace and promote talks" to resolve the conflict in Ukraine and that it stands firmly on "playing a constructive role in promoting the de-escalation and cooling down the situation."

Some context: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday he has concerns that Beijing is considering stepping up its partnership with Moscow by supplying Russia's military with “lethal support.” Blinken raised the issue when he met with China's top diplomat Wang Yi on Saturday, officials said.

CNN previously reported that the US has begun seeing “disturbing” trendlines of late in China’s support for Russia’s military, and there are signs that Beijing wants to “creep up to the line” of providing lethal military aid to Russia without getting caught, according to US officials familiar with the intelligence.

The officials would not describe in detail what intelligence the US has seen suggesting a recent shift in China’s posture but said US officials have been concerned enough that they shared the intelligence with allies and partners.

1:55 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023

Analysis: After nearly one year of war, how Ukraine defied the odds — and may still defeat Russia

Analysis from CNN's Tim Lister

“When you attack us, you will see our faces. Not our backs, but our faces.”

The words of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hours after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion on February 24, 2022.

They were prophetic. Many analysts expected Ukrainian resistance to crumble in days. But for a year, the Ukrainian military has faced down a much larger force, rolling back the Russians’ initial gains in Kharkiv and Kherson, holding the line in the hotly contested Donbas region.

In the process the Ukrainians have inflicted stunning losses on the Russian army, and laid bare the outmoded tactics, stale leadership and brittle morale of a force more impressive on parade than on the battlefield.

By contrast, Ukrainian units have proved nimble and adaptive, harnessing drone technology, decentralized command and smart operational planning to exploit their enemy’s systemic weaknesses.

And few would have bet that one year into this war, the vintage Ukrainian air force would still be flying.

Read the full analysis here.

1:57 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023

Biden heading to Poland as Russia's invasion of Ukraine nears first anniversary

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Joe Biden speaks in Washington on February 16.
Joe Biden speaks in Washington on February 16. (Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden is heading to Poland for a two-day visit to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, returning to the region as the war enters a volatile new phase without a clear path to peace.

Biden will arrive in Warsaw on Tuesday where he will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda, the White House said in a statement Sunday.

"The President will deliver remarks ahead of the one year anniversary of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, addressing how the United States has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and democracy, and how we will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes," the statement said.

One year ago, Biden was urgently warning a sometimes-skeptical world that a massive buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine's borders was the precursor to war. At the time, even some inside his own government questioned the ability of the Ukrainians to withstand an invasion, predicting the imminent fall of the capital Kyiv.

Instead, Ukrainian fighters have held the capital and continue to resist Russian attempts to control territory, helped by a massive influx of Western weapons, ammunition and equipment. The war has become a grinding conflict that US officials say could last for months or even years.

It has come to shape Biden's foreign policy, the fallout reverberating in the global economy and leading to newfound unity between the United States and its European allies.

Biden's aides have been planning for several weeks how they will mark the anniversary of the invasion, including potentially a major address. They hope to emphasize the resilience of the Ukrainian people while stressing the importance of unity in the uncertain months ahead.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is currently preparing for an expected Russian offensive in the spring, appealing to Western governments for additional assistance and weaponry to help sustain the fight.

12:32 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023

Analysis: Why the US is accusing Russia of crimes against humanity and what that means

Analysis from CNN's Paul LeBlanc

A year into Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the US has seen enough.

“In the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards, and there is no doubt: These are crimes against humanity,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at the Munich Security Conference this weekend.
“To all those who have perpetrated these crimes, and to their superiors who are complicit in those crimes, you will be held to account.”

The declaration marks the strongest accusation yet from the US as it seeks to punish Moscow for its war of aggression.

The US government declared last March that members of the Russian armed forces had committed war crimes in Ukraine. President Joe Biden has gone as far as saying that atrocities at the hands of Moscow’s troops qualify as “genocide.”

While the “crimes against humanity” determination is significant, it remains largely symbolic for now. It does not immediately trigger any specific consequences, nor does it give the US the ability to prosecute Russians involved with perpetrating crimes.

However, it could provide international bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, with evidence to effectively try to prosecute those crimes.

Read the full analysis here.

12:02 a.m. ET, February 20, 2023

2 people injured after Russian shelling in Dnipropetrovsk

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Kostan Nechyporenko

Two people were injured following Russian shelling of civilian infrastructure in numerous areas of the Dnipropetrovsk region on Sunday, Mykola Lukashuk, head of the Dnipropetrovsk region council said on Telegram. 

“Two districts of Dnipropetrovsk region — Nikopol and Synelnykove — came under enemy fire today. Four attacks on civilian communities were registered during the day,” Lukashuk wrote. “We have two injured.” 

The regional head reported Russians also shelled Nikopol, Marhanets, Myrove and Velykomykhailivka communities with "heavy" artillery. 

Several residential buildings, gas pipelines and power grids were damaged in Myrove, he said.