The latest on Ukraine and Russia tensions

By Joshua Berlinger, Nick Thompson, Peter Wilkinson, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 1202 GMT (2002 HKT) February 17, 2022
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10:42 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022

Concern over continued buildup of Russian forces "has not abated a single bit," State Department says

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that "our concern has not abated a single bit" as Russia continues its buildup of troops near the Ukrainian border.

There's been "no meaningful sign of de-escalation, no meaningful Russian troop withdrawals from the borders," Price told CNN's Jim Sciutto on Wednesday.  

"We have continued to see Russian forces flow to the border, we've continued to see Russians along the border actually move into fighting positions. ... We know the Russian playbook. We know the Russians engage in misinformation and disinformation. We have good reason to believe the Russians are saying one thing and doing another in an effort to obfiscate, in an effort to hide the truth," he said. "The threat is very real."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this morning there has been "no meaningful pullback" of Russian forces, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement Tuesday that that Russia was sending some troops back to base after completing drills.

"The fact that Putin can take any number of courses were he to choose to do so, that is what gives us profound concern," Price said.

"We know that the playbook could include everything from cyberattacks to electronic warfare to aerial bombardment to a large-scale incursion. We are prepared for every eventuality," he added.

While it remains the "strong, strong, strong preference" to find a diplomatic solution, Price said, the Russians will need to de-escalate and "take meaningful steps that they have yet to take." 

11:00 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022

US commerce secretary: Biden administration wants "immediate economic retaliation" if Russia invades Ukraine

From CNN's Liz Stark

President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks on the situation with Russia and Ukraine in the East Room of the White House on February 15.
President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks on the situation with Russia and Ukraine in the East Room of the White House on February 15. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said President Biden has told her the administration would seek “severe, swift, immediate economic retaliation” if Russia were to invade Ukraine, amid rising tensions along the Ukrainian border.

“In terms of using any of our economic tools, I mean the President's been very clear with me, Secretary Yellen, if this happens, we want a severe, swift, immediate economic retaliation. And the way to make that effective and also not hurt our economy is to work with our allies,” Raimondo said in an interview with Punchbowl News Wednesday. 

This follows Biden’s remarks Tuesday in which he made an appeal for diplomacy to continue as the world watches to see if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an invasion of neighboring Ukraine, but also warned that a Russian attack on Ukraine will "be met with overwhelming international condemnation."

Raimondo also noted Wednesday that if Russia invades, “there would be disruption to the global economy, not just the US economy,” and that the Biden administration is “doing everything we can to avoid that eventuality.” 

Raimondo added that “it’s hard to know exactly how disruptive it would be to our economy,” pointing to concerns about potential increases in fuel prices. 

“We're already starting to think about what can we do to surge capacity, working with our allies, working with companies to make sure that we are ready to increase supply if necessary,” Raimondo said in the interview.

Asked about the risks of cyberattacks and possible impact on US businesses, Raimondo stressed the Biden administration is “monitoring this every minute of every day” and “there aren't as I sit here, you know, credible threats — though that could change, right, in five minutes.” 

Raimondo said US agencies are “hardening our own systems,” in addition to the Biden administration being in “constant communication” with private sector companies.

“It's just this constant communication with the biggest private sector companies, with the private sector companies that run America's infrastructure, to make sure that we have this seamless information flow, so that we're protected but also we can react immediately if something happens,” said Raimondo. 

10:04 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022

US stocks open lower as investors continue to monitor Russia-Ukraine situation 

From CNN’s Matt Egan

US stocks opened lower on Wednesday as investors continued to eye the situation in Ukraine as well as the Fed.

 At 2 p.m. ET, the Fed is set to release minutes from its January meeting that should offer new insights into the central bank’s plan to fight inflation by raising interest rates and shrinking its balance sheet.

Here's what the markets looked like this morning:

  • The Dow fell 0.2%
  • The S&P 00 fell 0.4%
  • The Nasdaq fell 1.1%

  

9:49 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022

European leaders will meet tomorrow to discuss the latest Russia-Ukraine developments

From CNN’s James Frater in Brussels

Ukrainian police officers march in Independence Square in central Kyiv on February 16.
Ukrainian police officers march in Independence Square in central Kyiv on February 16. (Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP/Getty Images)

European leaders will convene tomorrow for a newly arranged face-to-face meeting in Brussels to discuss the latest Russia-Ukraine developments.

“Ahead of tomorrow’s European Union – African Union Summit, there will be a one hour informal meeting of the members of the European Council at 12:30 pm (local) on a state of play of latest developments related to Russia/Ukraine,” European Council spokesperson Barend Leyts said in a statement.

 

 

9:36 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022

President Biden and German Chancellor Scholz will speak today

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

President Biden and German Chancellor Scholz are scheduled to speak this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET, a White House official says. 

Both leaders met at the White House earlier this month and Scholz met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday as diplomatic and de-escalation efforts continue.

9:37 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022

CIA moves out of Kyiv embassy and relocates in Lviv, sources say

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis & Natasha Bertrand

US Embassy in Kyiv on February 15, 2022.
US Embassy in Kyiv on February 15, 2022. (Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The CIA station in Kyiv has temporarily left along with the embassy, and relocated in Lviv, according to sources familiar with the matter — as would be expected, since the agency relies on the embassy backbone to operate out of in Kyiv as it does in other cities around the world.

According to two other sources familiar with the matter, the kind of work agency officers were doing in Ukraine is standard liaison partner work that has been ongoing there since at least the Obama administration. 

But the move could still make it more difficult for the CIA to collect intelligence on Russian activities inside Ukraine, at a time when the US is warily watching for signs of Russian conventional or “grayzone” warfare.

 

9:14 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022

NATO secretary general says there has been no sign of Russian de-escalation on the ground

From CNN's James Frater

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “Russia has amassed an invasion force on the borders of Ukraine" in opening remarks of the Meetings of NATO Ministers of Defence in Brussels Wednesday. But, he said, there are signals from the Kremlin that diplomacy should continue. 

“This gives grounds for cautious optimism, however, we have not so far seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground,” Stoltenberg said.

“NATO is not a threat to Russia, and we remain ready to engage in dialogue and find a diplomatic way forward,” he said. 

Stoltenberg said while the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would “continue to work for the best, we must also be prepared for the worst.”

“We will do what is necessary to protect and defend all allies. We have already raised the readiness of the NATO Response Force, and allies are putting forces on standby and deploy more troops, planes and ships.”

“Today, we will consider how we should enhance our deterrence and defense posture and pursue our diplomatic efforts,” Stoltenberg said. 

9:01 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022

US secretary of state: "No meaningful pullback" of Russian forces from the Ukrainian border

From CNN's Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the United States is not seeing evidence that Russia is pulling back troops from the border of Ukraine, despite Russian claims. 

“Unfortunately, there's a difference between what Russia says and what it does. And what we're seeing is no meaningful pullback,” Blinken said on ABC’s "Good Morning America."

“On the contrary, we continue to see forces, especially forces that would be in the vanguard of any renewed aggression against Ukraine, continuing to be at the border, to mass at the border,” he said.

Blinken reiterated that the US believes that Russia could invade neighboring Ukraine at any moment, including this week.

“We said that we were in a window of time in which the invasion could come at any time. President Putin's put in place the capacity to act on very short notice. He could pull the trigger. He could pull it today. He could pull it tomorrow. He could pull it next week. The forces are there if he wants to renew aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken said.

Blinken underscored that the US remains committed to trying to pursue diplomacy, but said the ball is in Russia’s court. 

Multiple US officials also told CNN that there is no evidence to substantiate Russian claims of a drawdown of its troops near the Ukrainian border.

“We have not seen any credible, verifiable, or meaningful drawdown,” a Biden administration official told CNN, urging reporters to “be deeply skeptical of official Russian sources” purporting to show a withdrawal of forces.

A senior US official said the US is “not seeing any movement to support that claim” by Russia.

CNN's Jim Sciutto and Jeremy Diamond contributed reporting to this post.

8:57 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022

Ukrainian military intel says Russian troop ​buildup continues but is insufficient for full-scale invasion

From CNN's Matthew Chance

The latest Ukrainian intelligence report says that the Ukrainian government believes the current Russian troop level is not enough to effectively invade. 

“The Russian military contingent near the Ukrainian border is insufficient to carry out a successful large-scale armed aggression against Ukraine,” according to a Ukrainian intel report obtained by CNN. 

The total number of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border has increased to over 148,000, including more than 126,000 ground troops, according to the report. This is in line with recent US reports about the strength of Russian forces threatening Ukraine. 

According to the new Ukrainian intelligence assessment, shared exclusively with CNN, there are currently 87 Russia battalion tactical groups on constant alert around Ukraine, 53 more than are usually based in the area. 

Recognizing that inability, the report said that “Russia focuses on destabilizing Ukraine’s internal situation,” including with the use economic and energy tools, plus cyberattacks. 

The Ukrainian intelligence report also detailed what it called a “creeping Russian occupation of Belarus,” suggesting that Russia continues to bolster its air and missile forces in the country, which borders both Russia and Ukraine. The report said Belarus is now “a full-fledged theatre of operations,” that Russia can “use to expand its aggression in Eastern Europe.”