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
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9:50 p.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Former British PM says military aid for Ukraine is crucial for longterm western security

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he believes military aid to Ukraine will help the country win the war against Russia — a feat he says "will be of decisive importance for western security."

"If we fail to expunge Putin from Ukraine, if the Ukrainians lose, then the jeopardy for the whole Euro-Atlantic security area, for the United States, is all the greater," Johnson told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "And of course the risks of read across in the Pacific are all the greater."

He called on countries to provide Ukraine with more tanks, planes and long-range artillery. Specifically, he said US President Joe Biden should give Ukraine F-16 jets and called on his country to do the same, making the case that had planes been sent a year ago, "we would be that much further" in ending the war.

"If it's going to be sooner or later — if that's the choice— then let's give them what they need sooner because that is the humane, the compassionate thing," he said. "Finish this war as quickly as possible, minimize the bloodshed, minimize the suffering, minimize the expense."

The former prime minister also praised and congratulated Biden for his surprise visit to Ukraine ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

“It was exactly the right thing for the president to do,” he said. “I applaud him and I thought his speech was excellent.”
9:27 p.m. ET, February 21, 2023

China’s top diplomat meets with Russia’s head of Security Council

From CNN’s Wayne Chang in Hong Kong

Chinese foreign affairs Minister Wang Yi speaks during the 2023 Munich Security Conference (MSC) on February 18, in Munich, Germany.
Chinese foreign affairs Minister Wang Yi speaks during the 2023 Munich Security Conference (MSC) on February 18, in Munich, Germany. (Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi met with Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, in Moscow on Tuesday, according to a statement from China's Foreign Ministry.

The two officials agreed to oppose “the Cold War mentality, bloc confrontation and ideological opposition,” as well as "strengthen cooperation" multilaterally to improve global governance, the ministry said.

Wang and Patrushev also discussed the situation in Ukraine, the statement added, without providing additional details.

11:02 p.m. ET, February 21, 2023

US believes Russia had failed intercontinental ballistic missile test around when Biden was in Ukraine

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Natasha Bertrand

Russia carried out a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears to have failed around the time President Joe Biden was in Ukraine on Monday, according to two US officials familiar with the matter.

Russia notified the United States in advance of the launch through deconfliction lines, one official said. Another official said that the test did not pose a risk to the United States and that the US did not view the test as an anomaly or an escalation.

The test of the heavy SARMAT missile – nicknamed the Satan II in the West and capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads – appears to have failed, officials said. It has been successfully tested before and had this one worked, US officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin would have highlighted the test in his State of the Nation address on Tuesday.

Instead, Putin made no mention of the launch in the speech that lasted an hour and 45 minutes. He did, however, formally declare that Russia will be suspending his country’s participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States, imperiling the last remaining pact that regulates the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

CNN initially reported the apparent test occurred while Biden was in Ukraine, based on information from sources. After this story was first published, one of the officials said the test occurred just before Biden was in the country. The second source had told CNN that the test was on Monday without providing any more specific timing.

The timing of the test suggests that the US and Russia were communicating through several different channels earlier this week for deconfliction purposes — US officials also notified the Russians on Sunday night, hours before Biden’s visit to Kyiv, that the president would be making the trip to the Ukrainian capital, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday. 

CNN has asked Russia’s embassy in Washington for comment.

Read more here

Correction: This post has been updated to better reflect the timing of the apparent failed intercontinental ballistic missile test.

6:32 p.m. ET, February 21, 2023

UK hopes Putin will reconsider decision to suspend Russia's participation in nuclear agreement

From CNN’s Jorge Engels and Radina Gigova in London

The United Kingdom hopes President Vladimir Putin will “reconsider his rash decision to suspend Russia’s participation in the New START Treaty,” a spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Tuesday.

Sunak’s spokesperson added that arms control is vital to global security and "this is another example of Putin jeopardizing global security for political gain," a government press officer told CNN.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the decision to suspend participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty – announced by Putin during a speech Tuesday – is "reversible," and that despite its decision, Moscow will respect the nuclear weapons cap established under the treaty.

5:45 p.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Zelensky says he has not seen any official peace plan from China

From CNN’s Philip Wang

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has not seen any official peace plan from China. He said he is counting on international support for Ukraine’s own peace formula.

During a joint press conference with Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Zelensky said Ukraine is interested in all countries being involved in ending the war.

“We expect the UN to support our peace formula on February 23. I think it is essential to have one, single standpoint,” Zelensky said. “I have not seen any official document [from China].”

On Monday, China said it is willing to work with other countries to achieve an early ceasefire and lasting peace in Ukraine, the country's top diplomat Wang Yi told state news agency Xinhua. Wang arrived in Moscow on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wang shared with him key points of China’s peace plan, but Ukraine’s peace formula purposed by Zelensky remains the priority. 

“We look forward to receiving the text, as this is not a place where you can jump to conclusions just by hearing what the plan is about. We need to find out all the details. Once we receive the document, we will carefully study it and draw conclusions, ” Kuleba said. 

7:10 p.m. ET, February 21, 2023

First lady Jill Biden says she found out about the president's trip to Ukraine "right before he left"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

First Lady Jill Biden speaks as she hosts a conversation on women's empowerment at the US Ambassadors' house in Mexico City, on January 9.
First Lady Jill Biden speaks as she hosts a conversation on women's empowerment at the US Ambassadors' house in Mexico City, on January 9. (Rodrigo Oropeza/AFP/Getty Images)

First lady Jill Biden told reporters on Tuesday she found out about President Joe Biden’s visit to Ukraine “right before he left,” adding that she expressed some concerns about Monday’s covert trip. 

“He told me, like, right before he left and I said, ‘What? You're going where?’” the first lady said before boarding a plane to head off on a six-day trip to Namibia and Kenya. She reiterated that she found out “right before he left because it was, you know, covert.” 

Asked if she had concerns about him going to Ukraine, she said, "Of course I did!” Biden said she didn’t remember whether the president informed her about the Ukraine visit during their recent weekend dinner date in Washington. 

Biden also said she’s spoken to the president a few times during his ongoing trip to Ukraine and Poland.

“He felt it went well and he was glad that he went,” the first lady said, later adding that she hasn’t seen coverage of his recent speech in Warsaw because she was teaching.  

"I haven't seen any of the press because I was in the classroom the whole time. But I'm gonna go upstairs, you know, watch some of it. But I heard the speech in Poland was amazing,” she said.
5:21 p.m. ET, February 21, 2023

Ukrainian victories on battlefield are the only way to peace talks, source says 

From CNN’s Matthew Chance

The only path to "real peace talks" involves more Ukrainian victories on the battlefield, a source close to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN on Tuesday. 

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s uncompromising address to his country on Tuesday, the source said Ukraine needs more military assistance to end the war.

“The faster Ukraine receives the weapons it needs, the sooner the war will be over,” the source said.

Some background: Putin's speech came on the same day United States President Joe Biden reaffirmed his commitment to Ukraine during an address in Poland Tuesday.

On Monday, during a surprise visit to Kyiv, Biden announced half-billion dollars in new assistance, saying the package would include more military equipment, such as artillery ammunition, more javelins and Howitzers. He also said new sanctions would be imposed on Moscow later this week.

4:03 p.m. ET, February 21, 2023

China should steer clear of providing weapons to Russia, deputy mayor of Lviv says

China should steer clear of getting involved in the Ukraine war, said Serhiy Kiral, deputy mayor of Lviv, when asked about reports Beijing was weighing providing lethal weapons to Russia.

"My message to the Beijing would be to continue to be Beijing, to be China as it has been for thousands of years. China should stay and mind their own business and national interests and continue to promote peace and security throughout the world, at least the narrative they have been speaking out about for many years. They should be staying out of this potential support to Russia," Kiral said to CNN's Bianna Golodryga on Tuesday.

The US and Western allies have already made clear that "any escalation by supplying lethal weapons to Russia will lead to crossing the redlines and really unpredictable consequences for the Chinese economy and the Chinese future," he added.

Some context: Though China has claimed impartiality in the conflict and no advance knowledge of Russia’s intent to invade Ukraine, it has refused to condemn Moscow and parroted Kremlin lines blaming NATO for provoking the conflict. And while Beijing’s pro-Russian rhetoric appears to have softened in recent months, its support for Moscow – when measured by its annual trade, diplomatic engagements and schedule of joint military exercises – has bolstered over the past year.