February 23, 2023 - Town hall on Russia's war in Ukraine

By Kathleen Magramo, Tara Subramaniam, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Maureen Chowdhury, Tori B. Powell and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023
43 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
5:35 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

US expected to announce $2 billion Ukraine aid package on Friday

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The Biden administration is expected to announce another $2 billion in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds on Friday, the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion, a US official said Thursday.  

Unlike drawdown packages, which are pulled directly from US weapons stocks and can be shipped quickly to Ukraine, USAI packages are purchased or contracted from the industry. Though the aid can take far longer to arrive in Ukraine, it also signals a longer-term commitment to providing assistance to Kyiv in what the US sees as a protracted conflict against Russia. 

This is new funding for purchases and new contracts for equipment for Ukraine, including:

  • HIMARS rockets
  • 155m artillery ammunition
  • multiple types of drones (UAVS)
  • Counter UAV equipment
  • Mine clearing equipment
  • Secure communications equipment
  • Funding for training and maintenance

The US announced its 32nd drawdown of US equipment for Ukraine just three days ago, valued at $450 million, which included more HIMAR and Howitzer ammunition, Javelin anti-tank missiles and air surveillance radars. 

The announcement came the same day President Joe Biden made a highly secretive visit to Kyiv, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and then giving an impassioned speech in support of Ukraine from Warsaw. 

“One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv,” Biden said in Poland. “Well, I’ve just come from a visit to Kyiv and I can report Kyiv stands strong. Kyiv stands proud, it stands tall and most important, it stands free.” 

Biden said Tuesday that he reiterated his support for Ukraine in conversations with Polish President Andrzej Duda while in the country.

“I can proudly say that our support for Ukraine remains unwavering,” Biden said.
5:24 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

UN resolution condemning Russian invasion of Ukraine passes with 141 votes in favor

From CNN’s Richard Roth and Maria Kostenko

The UN General Assembly approved a resolution Thursday denouncing the Russian attack on Ukraine and demanding Moscow withdraw its troops. 

There were 141 votes in favor, seven opposed and 32 abstentions — including China.

The strength of countries passing the resolution shows no diminishing in levels of support for Ukraine and against Russia.

There are no vetoes in General Assembly voting. 

The resolution is not legally binding but has demonstrated overwhelming support for Ukraine a year after Russia's invasion.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and President Volodymyr Zelensky commended the resolution.

“By voting in favour of today’s UNGA resolution 141 UN member states made it clear that Russia must end its illegal aggression,” Kuleba tweeted. “Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be restored. One year after Russia launched its full-scale invasion global support for Ukraine remains strong.”

Zelensky expressed his gratitude to the countries that voted in favor and tweeted: “I am grateful to all the countries that endorsed the crucial @UN General Assembly resolution ‘Principles of the Charter of the United Nations that underline the comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.'"

5:01 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

Dutch official says Western countries are discussing supplying fighter jets to Ukraine behind closed doors

From CNN’s Isa Soares, Jaya Sharma and Sugam Pokharel in London  

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra speaks during the Eleventh Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on Ukraine, at UN headquarters in New York City on February 23.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra speaks during the Eleventh Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on Ukraine, at UN headquarters in New York City on February 23. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Thursday the European Union and NATO countries are having discussions behind closed doors about providing Ukraine with Western fighter jets.  

“From (the Netherland's) perspective, there are no taboos. But what we do need to take into account is that it's actually best to have these sensitive conversations first, with each other, behind closed doors,” Hoekstra said in an interview with CNN’s Isa Soares.   

He added: "When you're talking about this type of weaponry, it's something that we always do together with our allies. So, this is a discussion we're having with our North American friends and our European friends. And once we reach a conclusion, that's the moment to actually share that with the rest of the world."

Asked about the delay in getting weapons to Ukraine, Hoekstra said in hindsight the conversations should have started much earlier.  

“When we look back, I would have wished we had started the tank conversation even earlier, because that would’ve mattered today on the battlefield for our Ukrainian friends,” the foreign minister said.  

On setting up a criminal tribunal to hold Russia accountable for war crimes, he said the priority is to ensure a victory for Ukraine in the war.  

“The very first thing we need to do is make sure the Ukrainians are going to win this war. When this is all said and done, it is of tremendous importance that we show to the world, that we show to survivors […] like we did in the case of Nuremberg, like we did in the case of Tokyo, we show that justice will be done,” the minister added.  

3:19 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

EU will introduce tougher measures to crack down on Russian sanctions evasion, German economy minister says

From CNN’s Inke Kappeler in Berlin 

The European Union plans to introduce tougher measures to crack down on companies evading the Western sanctions on Russia, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Thursday. 

Proposals include listing of companies who are circumventing sanctions via third countries, so that trade with these companies would be stopped to interrupt their flow of goods to Russia. 

According to foreign trade data, EU-sanctioned goods were “exported to a considerable extent“ by companies in Germany and other EU-states to Russia via “certain third countries,” a statement from the German economy ministry said. 

“This is not a trivial offense,” Habeck argued. 

Sanctions evasion was “already punishable by law” and if it’s proven that it was a conscious decision, it would also “be punishable or prosecuted,” he added. 

The EU had to “counter these circumvention activities more effectively” at national level and at the level of the bloc, according to a German government statement. 

Habeck raised a possibility of a new set of sanctions against Russia that would focus on “the intensified fight against the circumvention of sanctions.”  

3:24 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

Russian efforts to break through in north unsuccessful as Bakhmut battle continues, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Tim Lister

The Ukrainian military says that Russian forces attempted unsuccessful assaults along several parts of the front lines in the north of Ukraine— including along the border of Kharkiv and Luhansk regions — an area where the Russians have been trying to break through for several weeks.

The forests west of Russian-held Kreminna have seen fierce fighting since the Russians brought reinforcements into the area in December. But they have been unable to reach open land around the towns of Torske and Zarichne, which would bring them closer to larger cities in the Donetsk region. 

There has also been fierce fighting further north, around the town of Svatove, but the front lines there have changed little. 

"We did have escalation a few days back both in Svatove and Kreminna sectors. It was really hard on us when they attacked. It was quiet today though since our defenders have repelled powerful attacks in all directions, destroyed lots of manpower and equipment," Serhiy Hayday, head of the regional military administration in Luhansk, said.

"They (Russians) have retreated to regroup I guess, to pull in some equipment," he added.

Hayday said that the Russians "throw a company of heavy equipment and a company of infantry on the offensive at the same time. They used to attack with one to two tanks plus a single platoon, now it's more than that."

Meanwhile in the east: In its daily update Thursday, the military's General Staff said that Russian forces continue to attack in several locations around the city of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian units are trying to keep access to the city open. It said 13 settlements in the area had come under fire.

Unofficial military accounts say that heavy fighting persists to the north and northwest of Bakhmut, where Russian units — including Wagner paramilitaries — are trying to take higher ground and tighten their grip on access routes into Bakhmut.  

Col. Yuriy Madyar of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade said in a video message that "the situation on the northern flank is becoming more difficult. This is where they want to make possible encirclement of Bakhmut."

He said Ukrainian units "are strongly holding the southern flank."

"Northern outskirts of Bakhmut were dynamic last night, it is now more quiet, so we’re preparing for the night ahead ... Southeast direction as well as south and southwest sectors are under constant enemy pressure."

The Ukrainian military also says cross border mortar and artillery fire continues in the north, with several places in the Sumy, Chernihiv and Kharkiv regions affected. Some analysts assess this fire is to fix Ukrainian defending units in the north, preventing them from being redeployed to the Donetsk region, where much of the heaviest fighting is concentrated.

In the south, the Ukrainian military claims that in the Russian occupied city of Melitopol, school children are taking the oath of "junior soldiers" (Yunarmiya).

And in Maripuol, it claims, "The occupiers are persuading locals to engage in equipping positions around the city in exchange for food rations, causing a humanitarian crisis."

3:17 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

Landmarks across Europe light up in colors of Ukrainian flag for anniversary of Russia's invasion

From CNN’s Alex Hardie and Eve Brennan in London 

A photo shows the Eiffel Tower lit in the colors of the Ukrainnian flag in a show of support to Ukraine, one year after Russia launched a military invasion on the country, in Paris, on February 23.
A photo shows the Eiffel Tower lit in the colors of the Ukrainnian flag in a show of support to Ukraine, one year after Russia launched a military invasion on the country, in Paris, on February 23. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

Landmarks across Europe have been lit up in colors of the Ukrainian flag to mark one year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the European Parliament in Brussels were lit up in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, on Thursday evening. 

The European Parliament said on Twitter that it was lit up “in solidarity” with Ukraine.  

Over a thousand people gathered at a vigil in London’s Trafalgar Square on Thursday evening.  

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year. 

People wave Ukrainian flags and hold a banner as they attend a vigil in Trafalgar Square on February 23 to mark one year anniversary of Russias invasion of Ukraine.
People wave Ukrainian flags and hold a banner as they attend a vigil in Trafalgar Square on February 23 to mark one year anniversary of Russias invasion of Ukraine. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

2:07 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

Biden will hold virtual meeting with G7 leaders and Zelensky on Friday, White House announces 

From CNN's DJ Judd

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

US President Joe Biden will meet virtually Friday with fellow G7 leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “to continue coordinating our efforts to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its war," the White House announced Thursday.

“One year ago, this group came together, just mere hours after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, to impose unprecedented costs on Putin and his cronies,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday. “We've worked together to provide Ukraine with the security, economic, economic and budget, humanitarian, and energy assistance it needs.” 

She offered praise for Japan, who holds the G7 presidency this year, and committed an additional $5.5 billion in economic assistance, calling the country “a steadfast ally” in efforts to provide aide to Ukraine.

“The G7 has become an anchor of our strong and united response to Russia,” Jean-Pierre added. “Tomorrow, the leaders will discuss how we continue supporting Ukraine, and continue to increase pressure on Putin and all those who enable his aggression.”

1:47 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

State Department official: US will be putting "constraints" on Chinese companies evading Russian sanctions

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood 

The Biden administration on Friday will be putting “constraints” on Chinese companies believed to be “active in evading sanctions” related to the war in Ukraine, a top US State Department official said Thursday.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said that the United States “will be putting other constraints on entities, Chinese-based or Chinese-subs of entities in Europe, which we think are active in evading sanctions,” along with sanctions package that will be announced on Friday – the anniversary of the invasion.

That package “focuses very, very intently and intentionally” on sanctions evasion, Nuland said, noting that Moscow has been using third-party countries to evade punishment.

“They are importing 1,000% more laptops, iPhones, dishwashers from third-countries, not because they need to, you know, work at home on their laptops but so they can cannibalize this machinery to get the advanced chips that we have denied them so that they can make more rockets, etc,” Nuland said at a Washington Post Live event.

The forthcoming sanctions will also “clamp down on more Russian banks that have been evading sanctions” as well as “the middlemen who are flipping back money to the Russian government” through oil trade.

Nuland also said the US has “made clear that we’re prepared to sanction Chinese companies” for supporting Moscow’s war in Ukraine, and that “some Chinese companies – whether the government is witting or not – have been sneaking up to the edge and trying to provide” support to Moscow. 

More on US sanctions: She noted that the US had recently sanctioned a Chinese company called Spacety “which was providing geo-location support to the Wagner group in Bakhmut.”

“The Russians consistently have been asking the Chinese for weapons,” Nuland said, noting that the US has consistently warned Beijing against providing lethal support. This was a key topic of conversation between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Munich this weekend. 

“There was another renewed warning that we will see this if you make a turn toward providing serious military support, whatever it is, and that will be a violation of sanctions and it’ll give the lie to Chinese assertions of neutrality in this war,” Nuland said.

“So that conversation was a tough one in Munich and I think it will continue,” she added.

1:45 p.m. ET, February 23, 2023

"We will not rest" until the day Ukraine prevails and is rebuilt, EU leaders say on eve of anniversary

From CNN’s Alex Hardie and James Frater in London 

The leaders of the 27 European Union countries issued a joint statement Thursday on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

“We will make sure that Ukraine prevails, that international law is respected, that peace and Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders are restored, that Ukraine is rebuilt, and that justice is done. Until that day, we will not rest,” the European Council statement said. 

The group said that Ukraine is “part of our European family.” 

“The European Union will continue to support Ukraine in political, economic, humanitarian, financial and military terms, including through swift coordinated procurement from European industry,” the statement said.   

“We will also support Ukraine’s reconstruction, for which we will strive to use frozen and immobilized Russian assets in accordance with EU and international law. We will further increase collective pressure on Russia to end its war of aggression. To this end we will adopt a tenth sanctions package and we will take steps against those who attempt to circumvent EU measures,” it continued. 

CNN reported earlier Thursday that European Union ambassadors have almost agreed on an another package of sanctions against Russia albeit “with the exception of one element that still needs to be clarified,” according to a EU diplomat.

Ukrainian flags were raised outside European Union institutions in Brussels Thursday on the eve of the anniversary, according to a tweet from EU chief Ursula von Der.