The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Jeevan Ravindran, Sana Noor Haq, Peter Wilkinson, Adrienne Vogt and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 3:50 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022
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11:31 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Ukraine's president calls for a list of sanctions against Russia to be made public now

From CNN's Samantha Beech

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told CNN that sanctions on Russia should be made public before a potential invasion of Ukraine occurs.

Zelensky told CNN at the Munich Security Conference that he disagreed with the stance that sanctions should only be listed after an invasion by the Kremlin. 

“The question of just making it public … just the list of sanctions for them, for us to know what will happen if they start the war — even that question does not have the support,” he told CNN. 

“We don't need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders, or after we will have no economy … Why would we need those sanctions then?” he said.

“We had a discussion some time ago with one of the leaders of one [of] the leading countries and we were talking about the sanctions policy … We had a different vision on how sanctions should [be] applied when Russian aggression will happen,” he said. “So when you are asking 'what can be done?', well, lots of different things can be done. We can even provide you with a list. The most important is willingness.”

Zelensky added: “If you can’t even disclose what will happen to whom if the war starts … I doubt it will be triggered after it happens."

3:00 p.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Harris and Zelensky "agreed on the importance of diplomacy and de-escalation" in meeting, White House says

From CNN's Allie Malloy and Natasha Bertrand

US Vice President Kamala Harris, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the Munich Security Conference in Germany, on February 19.
US Vice President Kamala Harris, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the Munich Security Conference in Germany, on February 19. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "discussed recent developments and assessments of Russia’s massive military build-up around Ukraine" during their meeting at the Munich Security Conference today, the White House said.

According to the readout:

"The vice president underscored the US commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They discussed the united transatlantic approach if Russia further invades Ukraine, and the vice president outlined the swift and severe economic measures that have been prepared alongside our allies and partners. The vice president and President Zelenskyy agreed on the importance of diplomacy and de-escalation."

The meeting lasted roughly 45 minutes, according to an administration official. 

If Russia were to invade Ukraine, "we will impose far-reaching financial sanctions and export controls," Harris said in remarks in Germany. "We will target Russia's financial institutions and key industries. And we will target those who are complicit and those who aid and abet this unprovoked invasion."

Also, Harris held additional pull-aside meetings with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the margins of the conference, according to a White House official. 

“In each meeting, they discussed Ukraine, recent developments, and the united transatlantic response. In particular, they discussed the swift and severe economic measures that the US, the EU and others are poised to impose if Russia further invades Ukraine. They also discussed ongoing efforts at both deterrence and diplomacy,” the official said.

11:00 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

"One shelling, one cannon fire can lead to war," Ukrainian president tells CNN

From CNN’s Emmet Lyons

Speaking to CNN, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “any provocations are very dangerous” when asked about a potential false flag pretext for war with Russia. 

“I think the most complicated question is that in Crimea, in the temporary occupied territory of the Donbas along Ukraine and Russia, there is 30-35,000 on the temporary occupying territories ... so provocations are, indeed, very dangerous, if you have this number of troops. One shelling, one cannon fire can lead to war,” Zelensky warned. 

“This is what our partners believe, I mean the partners that are around us that have joined borders with us, we know the history of the Soviet Union and they do understand the kind of risks we are facing," he added. "Poland, the Baltic states, Lithuania and Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, they know what that could lead to. So, we need to be very careful."

The Ukrainian president went on to say casualties between Ukraine and Russia were more significant in 2014 but admitted that current tensions are “horrible,” adding that “it's a tragedy for our nation, for our people.”

“This is the tragedy for Russians as well who used to have good relations with Ukraine,” he added. 

Some context: The latest US intelligence assessment indicates that Russia is continuing with preparations to invade Ukraine, according to a senior US official with direct knowledge and another source directly familiar with the intelligence.

The assessment — described as "bleak" by the senior official — indicates Russia could attack in the coming days. The US still expects any Russian invasion to be prefaced by a false flag operation, another US official said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, pointed to recent actions — including Russia adding "leading edge forces" to its troops on Ukraine's border — to show how Russia's coercive tactics towards Ukraine are already in play.

"Everything that we're seeing, including what you've described in the last 24, 48 hours is part of a scenarios that is already in play of creating false provocations, of then having to respond to those provocations, and ultimately committing new aggression against Ukraine," Blinken said.

Russia has created pressure points on three sides of Ukraine — in Crimea to the south, on the Russian side of the two countries' border and in Belarus to the north.

Some history: In early 2014, mass protests in the capital Kyiv known as Euromaidan forced out a Russia-friendly president after he refused to sign a European Union association agreement.

Russia responded by annexing the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and fomenting a separatist rebellion in Ukraine's east, which seized control of part of the Donbas region. Despite a ceasefire agreement in 2015, the two sides have not seen a stable peace, and the front line has barely moved since.

Nearly 14,000 people have died in the conflict, and there are 1.5 million people internally displaced in Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian government.

CNN's Jim Sciutto, Natasha Bertrand and Eliza Mackintosh contributed reporting to this post.

10:39 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Ukrainian president tells CNN "we're not panicking" as Russia threat looms

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

President Volodymyr Zelensky during the Munich Security Conference in Germany, on February 19. 
President Volodymyr Zelensky during the Munich Security Conference in Germany, on February 19.  (Michael Probst/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN in Germany that he came to the Munich Security Conference to ensure that a Ukrainian voice was in the room. 

“I’m the president; it’s important for all our partners and friends to not agree about anything behind our back,” he said. “We’re not panicking. We’re very consistent that we are not responding to any provocations.”

In earlier remarks before the interview, Zelensky warned the conference of a potential large-scale war.

“Will the world be able to hear me in 2022?” he asked.

10:38 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Germany and Austria issue travel advisories for Ukraine, urge citizens to leave immediately

From Inke Kappeler and Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German and Austrian citizens have been urged by their governments to not travel to Ukraine and immediately leave if they are in the country.

“Travel to Ukraine is warned against. German citizens are urged to leave the country now,” read a notice issued by the German Foreign Office on Saturday. “Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have continued to rise in the face of massive presence and movement of Russian military units near Ukraine's borders. A military confrontation is possible at any time." 

The notice said that “should there be a Russian attack on Ukraine, there are very limited options of support to German citizens.”

The Austrian Foreign Office issued a similar advisory on Saturday, warning that “warlike action” could be a fatal threat, according to a statement published on its website.

As with Germany, consular assistance will not be available if required. 

9:59 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Here's why Donbas is at the center of the Ukraine crisis

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi, Nathan Hodge and Ivana Kottasová

Even as Russian forces mass on Ukraine's border, the spotlight this week has swung back to the rumbling low-intensity war in eastern Ukraine and its possible role in setting the stage for a broader conflict.

Over the past three days, there has been an upsurge in shelling along several parts of the front lines. The Ukrainians say shelling by the Russian-backed separatists is at its highest in nearly three years, and for their part the separatists allege the use of heavy weapons by Ukrainian armed forces against civilian areas.

On Thursday, a kindergarten in Ukrainian-controlled territory less than 5 kilometers from the front line was hit. On Friday and Saturday, the Ukrainian authorities reported a further spike of shelling by heavy weaponry, which is banned from within 50 kilometers of the front lines by the Minsk Agreements.

Ukrainian authorities say there were 60 breaches of a ceasefire on Thursday, many of them by heavy weapons.

The leaders of the two breakaway pro-Russian territories — which call themselves the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics — claimed the Ukrainians are planning a large military offensive in the area. On Friday, they organized mass evacuations of civilians to Russia, while instructing men to remain and take up arms.

Ukrainian officials repeatedly deny any such plans. On Friday, the head of Ukraine's National Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, said: "There is a great danger that the representatives of the Russian Federation who are there will provoke certain things. They can do things that have nothing to do with our military."

Read more here.

9:27 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

European Union sanctions against Russia are ready, German foreign minister says

From CNN’s Manveena Suri

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Saturday that a package of sanctions against Russia has been “wrapped up over the last few days and weeks.” 

She added that the European Union has also “made it clear that is not just the scenario of troops being moved into the country that will trigger these sanctions,” speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

Baerbock made the comments following a meeting with representatives of the European Union. She said different scenarios were being prepared for, adding “we're doing whatever we can to make sure that these scenarios don't become reality.”

“It's not always the harshest reaction that is the best weapon or cuts hearts best. So, we have to take a closer look at the situation arising and assess it on that basis. As I said the worst that could happen would be more interference. That would be the worst scenario really, and we will do whatever we can to avert this," Baerbock said.



8:57 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

US vice president calls the situation in Ukraine a "decisive moment"

From CNN’s Allie Malloy

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pose for photographs during the Munich Security Conference, in Germany on February 19.
US Vice President Kamala Harris and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pose for photographs during the Munich Security Conference, in Germany on February 19. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP)

In a photo spray with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Vice President Kamala Harris once again referred to the situation in Ukraine as a “decisive moment.” 

Harris said she was using the meeting as a “chance to reiterate the position of the US” saying the US takes the sovereignty of Ukraine seriously. 

The vice president said she was looking forward to hearing “directly from Zelensky” in the meeting.

Harris reiterated that the US would impose economic sanctions on Russia if they invade Ukraine.

The two did not answer questions from the press.


8:11 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Biden view of Putin’s decision based on intel assessments, but wasn’t planned beforehand

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Biden’s determination that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine was made in part based on the latest intelligence assessments showing nearly half of Russian forces massed on the borders have moved into attack position, administration officials and people familiar with the matter said. 

Still, Biden had not initially been planning to announce during his speech Friday that he believed Putin made up his mind, and the revelation was not included in his prepared remarks. He only made his view known afterward when questioned by a reporter, answering at first only in the affirmative and declining to expand. 

He also made clear there is a diplomatic path to resolve the crisis, even as US officials believe it is growing narrower as signs mount of an imminent invasion. 

Defense officials said Friday the number of battalion tactical groups had swelled to approximately 120-125, and that Russian forces were continuing to move toward the border. 

Biden’s view of Putin’s decision-making reflected those developments and the broader assessments of the intelligence community, an administration official said. The President cited “a significant intelligence capability” for his view of Putin’s thinking, which he’d previously said was something of a mystery. 

American officials have said Putin’s intentions have been difficult to discern because he keeps his plans hidden from even his senior-most advisers, revealing his decisions only when they are made. 

In the wake of Biden's remarks, a source from France's presidential palace told journalists Friday that no leader knows for sure whether Russia will invade Ukraine, but there is a risk.

“No leader said tonight that the invasion will or will not take place; we’re talking about risk,” the Élysée Palace source said, following a call between the leaders of the US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland, Romania, NATO and the European Union.

 “We’re not in the head of President Putin,” the source continued.