The latest on Ukraine and Russia tensions

By Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 0111 GMT (0911 HKT) February 12, 2022
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1:20 p.m. ET, February 11, 2022

New intel suggests Russia is prepared to launch an attack before the Olympics end, sources say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Katie Bo Lillis, Kylie Atwood and Jim Sciutto 

The US and its allies have new intelligence that suggests Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine even before the end of the Olympics, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell CNN. 

Previous assessments had suggested that Russia was unlikely to move into Ukraine until after the Olympics end on Feb. 20, US officials had told CNN in the past. The revelation of the new intelligence comes as administration officials have dramatically ramped up the urgency of their public warnings related to Ukraine in the past 24 hours.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine "could begin at any time," including during the Beijing Winter Olympics, and the United States continues "to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border."

Kyiv is among the targets identified in the Russian planning, three sources familiar with the new intelligence tell CNN. 

There are ongoing conversations within the administration about declassifying some of that new intelligence, which two US officials said may come later on Friday.

President Biden on Friday morning was set to hold a call with NATO and European allies to discuss the latest intelligence, a White House official told CNN. A European defense official said the North Atlantic Council will be discussing the situation and the new intelligence in a meeting later Friday.  

Biden also joined a meeting of his top national security advisers Thursday evening in the White House Situation Room to discuss the crisis, a person familiar with the meeting said.

When asked about new intelligence, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian defense minister said that such warnings have been heard already.

“Again? These statements have already been heard,” Iryna Zolotar, press secretary for Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told CNN.

CNN's Alex Marquardt and Mick Krever contributed reporting to this post.

12:17 p.m. ET, February 11, 2022

Israel's foreign ministry will pull families of diplomatic staff out of Ukraine

From Amir Tal in Jerusalem

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs will remove the families of Israeli diplomats and employees from its embassy in Kyiv amid growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

A ministry statement also urged Israeli citizens in Ukraine to consider leaving the country and recommended those planning to travel to Ukraine to cancel their trip.

The move comes after similar actions today from Japan and South Korea.

US President Biden has also urged all Americans to leave Ukraine.

1:21 p.m. ET, February 11, 2022

UK defense secretary: I was clear about "consequences" of Ukraine invasion in meeting with Russian counterpart

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace (L) and Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu shake hands during talks at the Russian Defence Ministry headquarters in Moscow, Russia, on February 11.
UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace (L) and Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu shake hands during talks at the Russian Defence Ministry headquarters in Moscow, Russia, on February 11. (Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence Ministry/TASS/Getty Images)

United Kingdom Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Friday that he heard "clearly" from the Russian government that they had no intention of invading Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow after talks with Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu amid Russia-West tensions over Ukraine, Wallace said: "I heard clearly from the Russian government that they had no intention of invading Ukraine."

The UK will look at the actions that back up Russia's assurances that Moscow will not invade Ukraine, Wallace said.

"When they say to me they are not going to invade Ukraine, we will take that seriously, but as I also said we will look at the actions that accompany it," he said.

Wallace also said that "the disposition of the Russian forces that we see over 100,000 in both Belarus and Ukraine, obviously gives that size of force the ability to do a whole range of actions including an invasion of neighboring country at any time."

Wallace said that he had "constructive and frank discussions" with Shoigu, and that they both agreed on the importance of the implementation of the Minsk agreement as "a clear way forward."

"I was clear about the tragic consequences that any invasion of Ukraine could have for all people, both Ukrainian, Russia, and the security of Europe," he added.

"We urged dialogue as a way through to address any concerns that Russia the Russian government may have," Wallace said.

Wallace said he would put the level of UK-Russia relations "above zero" following his meeting with Shoigu Friday, after Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti earlier reported that Shoigu had told Wallace that the level is "close to zero."

"Of course Britain has some ongoing issues with the Russian government, not least, the poisoning and deployment of nerve agent, by agents of the Russian state in Salisbury, and the requests we have, obviously, out for the people suspected of committing that crime. And that is ongoing and needs to be resolved," Wallace said.

However, "this is the first meeting of a UK defense minister with Minister Shoigu since 2013," he said. "So that is nine years, and I think the beginning of this process, which is to understand each other's concerns, also to be able to have a line of communication is a lot better than 0%."

Wallace went on to say that he looks forward to having an ongoing relationship with his Russian counterpart.

11:56 a.m. ET, February 11, 2022

Ukraine triggers international mechanism demanding Russian explanation of its military activities

From CNN's Tim Lister and Aliza Kassim Khalidi

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba gives a press conference following his meeting with OSCE Chairman-in-Office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 10.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba gives a press conference following his meeting with OSCE Chairman-in-Office in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 10. (Valentyn Ogirenko/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Friday that Ukraine has triggered part of an international agreement to demand Russia “provide detailed explanations on military activities in the areas adjacent to the territory of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied Crimea."

Kuleba said Ukraine was triggering the risk reduction mechanism in what's called the Vienna Document, a 2011 agreement signed by members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The agreement says that "Participating States will....consult and co-operate with each other about any unusual and unscheduled activities of their military forces outside their normal peacetime locations which are militarily significant."

It says that a participating state will be entitled to a reply within 48 hours.

Ukraine triggered the mechanism as Russia's buildup of forces continues near the border.

Ukraine has already protested a Russian declaration that seeks to seal off large areas of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov for naval drills.

Kuleba reaffirmed his commitment to using diplomatic channels to quell the tensions between Russia and Ukraine. 

He tweeted: "In case of absence of reply or [Russia's] insufficiency/irrelevance, Ukraine will address Russia, as well as other participating states of the Vienna Document, in order to convene an extraordinary meeting where Russia will have to provide explanations."

11:32 a.m. ET, February 11, 2022

Biden tells Americans in Ukraine to "leave now"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez, Kevin Liptak and Sam Fossum

US President Biden on Thursday urged Americans in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, warning that "things could go crazy quickly" in the region.

"American citizens should leave now," Biden said in an upcoming interview that was taped Thursday with NBC News' Lester Holt.

Referring to Russia, which has amassed troops on its border with Ukraine, Biden said, "It's not like we're dealing with a terrorist organization. We're dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. It's a very different situation and things could go crazy quickly."

Biden said during his NBC interview that "there's not" a situation that could prompt him to send US troops to rescue Americans attempting to exit Ukraine, adding, "That's a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another."

If Russian President Vladimir Putin is "foolish enough to go in, he's smart enough not to ... do anything that would negatively impact on American citizens," Biden added.

The White House has approved a plan for the nearly 2,000 US troops in Poland to help Americans who may try to evacuate Ukraine if Russia invades, according to two US officials familiar with the matter.

The US forces are not currently authorized to enter Ukraine itself if a war breaks out, and there are no plans for them to conduct a noncombatant evacuation operation akin to the US operation in Afghanistan last summer. Instead, the plan as it now stands is that the troops, who are from the 82nd Airborne Division, will begin setting up processing areas and temporary shelters inside Poland near Ukraine's border where Americans fleeing the country could go for help while in transit. The facilities have not yet been stood up, one defense official said, but will start to be as more US troops arrive in Poland.

The US State Department on Thursday repeated its warning saying that Americans should not travel to Ukraine "due to the increased threats of Russian military action" and called on those in the country to depart immediately.

The advisory told American citizens in Ukraine to "be aware that the US government will not be able to evacuate US citizens in the event of Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine."

In late January, the State Department authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel from the US Embassy in Kyiv and ordered family members to depart the country.

The US has estimated that Russia has more than 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border, with thousands added just this week, according to an administration official.

Read the full story here.

11:28 a.m. ET, February 11, 2022

NATO is considering a longer-term presence in eastern Europe, says secretary-general

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a visit at Mihail Kogalniceanu Military Base on February 11, in Mihail Kogalniceanu, Romania.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a visit at Mihail Kogalniceanu Military Base on February 11, in Mihail Kogalniceanu, Romania. (Andrei Pungovschi/AFP/Getty Images)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is looking into a longer-term presence in eastern Europe as it continues to reinforce its flank in the region, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.

“We are also assessing whether we should just have a more longer-term presence in eastern border lines,” he said in a joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

“That includes a battle group in Romania but also perhaps battleships in all the parts of the southeast of the Alliance," he added.

NATO's eastward expansion is a core concern of Russia, which has reaffirmed this during recent diplomatic efforts from the West to prevent an invasion of Ukraine.

A longer-term presence "will be discussed and addressed at the upcoming NATO defense ministerial meeting next week," Stoltenberg said. 

"I expect that ministers will agree to further start the planning and to address the scale and the scope and the details about how to deploy a battlegroup, what kind of battlegroup and then I expect that the final decision will be taken during the spring,” he said.

The pair spoke at Romanian military air base Mihail Kogălniceanu, where another 1,000 US troops were set to arrive Friday, bringing the total number of US service members to almost 2,000 at the base, Stoltenberg said. 

This “sends a very strong message of US North American commitment to European security,” he added.

Iohannis affirmed the importance of defending NATO’s eastern flank under threat from Russia which continues to amass troops along its border with Ukraine, which he described as "one of the worst crises after the fall of the Iron Curtain."

NATO is ready to deploy more troops and equipment on short notice if needed, Stoltenberg said, while reaffirming the alliance is solely defensive.

11:23 a.m. ET, February 11, 2022

Talks on Ukraine were "difficult," French and German representatives say

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Nadine Schmidt

Talks held in Berlin on Thursday between advisers from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine regarding tensions around Ukraine were "long and difficult," an Élysée spokesperson told journalists Friday. 

The German chancellor's spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit also said the talks were "difficult," adding they are seen as "an intermediate step."

“Russia agreed to the negotiation in principle, but ultimately insisted that it be written that Ukraine is to negotiate directly with the separatists, which is Ukraine's only red line,” the French spokesperson said. 

The Élysée said that the discussion focused on two points: “Political measures — such as reviews of the laws that Ukraine must, under the Minsk agreements, discuss with the separatists — and the humanitarian measures accompanying these discussions, particularly in terms of the release of prisoners.”

Hebestreit said that "it is good that talks are continuing — that what is the basis of the Minsk agreement continues to be accepted by all parties." 

Hebestreit said at a press briefing that the so-called Normandy talks will resume in March. 

11:21 a.m. ET, February 11, 2022

Japan and South Korea have advised citizens to evacuate Ukraine

From CNN's Junko Ogura and Gawon Bae

Image grab of footage released by the Russian defense ministry on February 11 showed tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets deployed in the drills in an unidentified location in Belarus.
Image grab of footage released by the Russian defense ministry on February 11 showed tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets deployed in the drills in an unidentified location in Belarus. (Russian MoD/EYEPRESS/Reuters)

Both Japan and South Korea told their citizens to evacuate Ukraine immediately amid the Russian buildup of troops on the border.

Japan's Foreign Ministry told residents that "the situation continues to be unpredictable."

"While there have been diplomatic efforts by the countries involved, there is a growing possibility that the situation could deteriorate rapidly. For this reason, the entire country of Ukraine has been raised to Level 4," the ministry said.

"Depending on the future situation, we cannot rule out the possibility that commercial flights will be suspended. Many countries are also advising their citizens to leave Ukraine, and it may become extremely difficult to leave the country in the future due to a rush of reservations for commercial flights and difficulty in securing seats. Therefore, if you are currently in Ukraine, please evacuate the country immediately by the safest means possible, including commercial flights. Please do not travel to Ukraine for any purpose whatsoever," it added.

The South Korean government raised its travel alert level for Ukraine to 4, the highest level, banning travel to Ukraine and ordering its nationals in the country to evacuate, according to a news release from the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs Friday.

The ministry said the level 4 alert comes into effect on Saturday 5 p.m. Ukraine time.

The ministry said this is a preventive measure in case the local situation rapidly worsens in Ukraine.

As of Friday, there are a total of 341 South Korean nationals in Ukraine, the release said.

South Korea previously advised its nationals residing in Kyiv and 14 other Ukrainian oblasts to leave amid heightened tensions between Ukraine and Russia on Jan. 25.

10:59 a.m. ET, February 11, 2022

Biden is speaking with NATO and key allies on Ukraine-Russia situation

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

US President Biden is holding a call with other world leaders on the situation in Ukraine this morning, a White House official told CNN.

The leaders of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, NATO, the European Commission, and the European Council will be on the call, according to the official.

“At 11 AM, President Biden will hold a call with Transatlantic leaders today to discuss our shared concerns about Russia’s continued buildup of military forces around Ukraine and continued coordination on both diplomacy and deterrence. Joining the President on the call will be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Andrzej Duda of Poland, President Klaus Iohannis of Romania and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom,” the official said.