February 21, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Eve Brennan, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal and Leinz Vales, CNN

Updated 1:33 a.m. ET, February 22, 2023
29 Posts
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6:40 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Russia is suspending its participation in New START nuclear weapons treaty, Putin says

From CNN's Anna Chernova, Nathan Hodge and Lauren Kent 

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state of the nation address in Moscow, on February 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state of the nation address in Moscow, on February 21. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia is suspending its participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

Moscow is not withdrawing from the agreement, but is suspending its participation, Putin said in his state of the nation address.

Under the key nuclear arms control treaty, both the United States and Russia are permitted to conduct inspections of each other’s weapons sites, but inspections have been halted since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the New START treaty is still in force after a previous agreement between Moscow and Washington extended it through February 4, 2026. 

According to US officials, Russia has continually refused to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities. 

“Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory," a US State Department spokesperson said in January. 

"Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control.”

Some context: The New START treaty is the only agreement left regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

The treaty puts limits on the number of deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons that both the US and Russia can have. It was last extended in early 2021 for five years, meaning the two sides will soon need to begin negotiating on another arms control agreement.

A session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission on the treaty was slated to meet in Egypt in late November but was abruptly called off.

The US has blamed Russia for this postponement, with a State Department spokesperson saying the decision was made “unilaterally” by Russia.

6:08 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Here is the latest control map from Ukraine

Russian forces have made incremental gains in eastern Ukraine, an analysis from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggests.

They have made some progress around the city of Bakhmut and are pushing around the important logistical target of Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region.

Here is the current control map of the country:

8:35 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Russia's war has been "a strategic failure in every way," Blinken says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, speaks during a news conference with Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias, in Athens, Greece, on February 21.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, speaks during a news conference with Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias, in Athens, Greece, on February 21. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia's war in Ukraine has been a "strategic failure in every way," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a news conference on Tuesday. 

Speaking alongside the Greek Foreign Minister in Athens, Blinken warned that allowing Russia's invasion of Ukraine to "go forward with impunity" would open up a "Pandora's box."

One year after President Putin attacks Ukraine, it's clear that his war has been a strategic failure in every way," said Blinken.

"That's because of the courage of the Ukrainian people. But it's also because of the strength and unity of allies and partners around the world who have come to support Ukraine," he said. 

The remarks followed US President Joe Biden's surprise visit to Ukraine Monday, which was hailed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a "symbolic" visit from a "powerful ally." 

Blinken commended Greece's "strong" and "outspoken" support for Ukraine and NATO, highlighting Greece's efforts to "strengthen the alliance's eastern flank" and facilitate shipments through the port of Alexandria.

5:56 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Pro-Russian military blogger slams Putin's speech

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio & Olga Voitovych

Former Russian military officer and prominent military blogger Igor Girkin criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech for failing to address some of the failings of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

"Ok, it's clear: the special military operation will continue in its current mode of obscurity. War or even counter-terrorist operation has not been declared, and won't be,” Girkin wrote in a Telegram post.

“Everything is fine in the army, and it is being done even better. Not a word about failures and defeats," he added.

Blah, blah, blah, there is no point in listening any further,” he concluded, halfway through the speech.

Girkin, a prominent Russian nationalist, played a key role in Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and throughout the conflict in the Donbas, helping organize separatist groups in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

He has also been charged with murder by Dutch authorities for his involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17.

Girkin has been critical of the Kremlin’s approach to the invasion of Ukraine, calling on the Russian Ministry of Defense to enact a tougher stance.

5:48 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Russian president showed his "irrelevance and confusion" in speech, Ukraine official says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

Vladimir Putin demonstrated his “irrelevance and confusion” in Tuesday's address to the Russian Federal Assembly on Tuesday, according to Mykhailo Podolyak, an official in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office.

“Putin publicly demonstrated his irrelevance and confusion,” Podolyak tweeted. “Because everywhere there are 'Nazis, Martians and conspiracy theories.'”

Putin used Tuesday's address to double down on his claim that the West left Russia with no choice but to invade Ukraine last February.

5:44 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023

It is "unlikely" Italy will send fighter jets to Ukraine, foreign minister says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said it is “unlikely” Italy will donate fighter jets to Ukraine in an interview with Italian daily newspaper La Stampa.

Tajani said the issue of sending fighter jets had not been discussed “yet,” but any such donation would have to be made in coordination with Italy’s allies.

“We'll have to coordinate with our allies, figure out what kind of planes to send to them, because it doesn't make sense to deliver different models to the Ukrainians,” Tajani said.

It seems to me practically impossible for Italian fighters to be sent,” he added.

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is currently visiting Kyiv and Tajani said she would assure Zelensky of Italy’s continued support for Ukraine.

“It’s beyond question,” he said. “We have already approved a sixth package and the sending of material is being finalized.”

“In a few weeks, in collaboration with the French, we will also send the Samp-T air defense missile system to Ukraine,” he added.

Tajani went on to say that Italy remained at the forefront to help Ukraine with military supplies and want to support the country after the war.

He added: “We are among the countries that have most seized funds from the Russian oligarchs, we are talking about over 2 billion, money that can be used to rebuild the country."

5:33 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Ukraine is serving the interests of "Western masters," Putin says

From CNN's Lauren Kent & David Budgen

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address at the Gostiny Dvor conference centre in central Moscow, Russia, on February 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address at the Gostiny Dvor conference centre in central Moscow, Russia, on February 21. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

Putin said in his Tuesday address that the Ukrainian government is protecting the interests of its "Western masters" rather than the country's own national interests. 

"The Kyiv regime and their Western masters have completely taken over the economy of the country," the Russian president claimed.

"They have destroyed the Ukrainian industry and economy," he said.

Putin added that the "material state" for those living in Ukraine has degraded.

"They're responsible for the escalation of the situation in Ukraine ... for the huge numbers of casualties," said Putin.

"And of course, the Kyiv regime is essentially alien to the people of Ukraine. They are not protecting their own interests, but those of their minder countries." 

5:25 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Biden is not going "head to head" with Putin in Warsaw speech, top aide says

From CNN's Kevin Liptak & Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden's speech in Warsaw on Tuesday will act as an "affirmative statement of values" rather than a direct rebuttal to Russian President Vladimir Putin's address to Russia's Federal Assembly.

"We did not set the speech up some kind of head to head,” said Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser. “This is not a rhetorical contest with anyone else.”

Sullivan said Biden’s speech would be bigger than a single response to the address from his counterpart in Moscow.

“The President's remarks today are … about something larger. And we selected this time, we selected this date, not because President Putin was speaking today,” he said.

Biden is set to speak later Tuesday from the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Sullivan couldn’t say whether Biden was watching any of Putin’s address, which is ongoing.

“There's a kind of absurdity in the notion that Russia was under some form of military threat from Ukraine or anyone else,” Sullivan said.

“And that's an argument the President has made for some time and he will very directly make that point in the speech tonight, not as a rebuttal to Putin’s speech today, but rather to lay to rest an argument that Russia has been making for some time.”

As Biden marks one year of Russia’s unprovoked war, Sullivan said the president will put the war into a “larger context.”

“A context that reminds people where we were on the eve of this war a year ago, when there were fundamental questions being asked, being asked of the international order, being asked of the United States, being asked of the NATO alliance," said Sullivan.

"And one year later, he believes that we have answered those questions about our unity and resolve, about our commitment to fundamental principles, and about our willingness to step up."

5:19 a.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Putin rails against same-sex marriage and "corrupt Western values"

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia, on February 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia, on February 21. (Dmitry Astakhov/Sputnik/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long cast himself as a defender of traditional values, and Tuesday's state of the union speech is no exception. 

In an extended digression, Putin warned that Russians face an existential threat from what he described as corrupt Western values. 

"The West declares that perversions including pedophilia, are part of the norm, destroys its values, calls on priests to bless same-sex marriages," he said. 

Putin added that the state shouldn't meddle in private life, but added that a family "is the union of a man and a woman."

Under Putin, the Russian government has expanded anti-LGBTQ laws.