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
11 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
5:51 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Ukraine says one soldier killed in renewed shelling near front lines

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych in Kyiv

The Ukrainian military said the first 12 hours of Saturday saw Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine commit 37 violations of the ceasefire along the so-called Line of Contact, including 35 incidents in which they utilized weapons prohibited by the Minsk Agreements.

The Joint Forces Operation said the violations included the use of 120mm mortars and 122mm artillery systems. At least one-third of the alleged violations were reported in one hour after 11:00 a.m. local time.

It also said that one Ukrainian serviceman was killed by a shrapnel wound to the head after several rounds of artillery fire were directed at Ukrainian positions near Myronivske early Saturday.

Some context: The war in eastern Ukraine started in 2014 and has claimed the lives of more than 14,000 people. Intense fighting in 2014 and 2015 left portions of eastern Luhansk and Donetsk in the hands of Russian-backed separatists. 

Those separatist-controlled areas in Ukraine's Donbas region, became known as the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). The Ukrainian government in Kyiv asserts the two regions are in effect Russian-occupied. The self-declared republics are not recognized by any government, including Russia. The Ukrainian government refuses to talk directly with either separatist republic. 

The Minsk II agreement of 2015 led to a shaky ceasefire agreement, and the conflict settled into static warfare along the Line of Contact that separates areas controlled by the Ukrainian government and separatists. The Minsk Agreements (named after the capital of Belarus where they were concluded) ban heavy weapons near the Line of Contact. 

5:55 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Vladimir Putin has succeeded in uniting his opponents

Analysis by CNN's Luke McGee

As the world watches and waits nervously to learn if Russian President Vladimir Putin willinstruct his forces to invade Ukraine, European diplomats are privately finding one small silver lining to the crisis unfolding in Eastern Europe.

The European Union and NATO have been remarkably united during this entire episode, which months ago was in no way a certainty.

Behind the scenes, diplomats, NATO sources and EU officials have praised the "unprecedented levels of unity and coordination" which has "strengthened the transatlantic alliance" as both institutions have worked in lockstep with each other and the US, as one EU official put it.

A senior European diplomat working in NATO said they had been "really surprised but thankful" at the regular contact and cooperation between leaderships of both the EU and NATO which has allowed the messaging directed at Moscow to be "coordinated and consistent at the highest diplomatic level, despite the cultural and geographical differences of all the stakeholders."

Read the full story:

5:43 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

10,000 people from Donbas crossed into Russia, Russian news agency reports

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv and Sarah Dean in Moscow

A total of 10,356 people have crossed from the Donbas region in Ukraine into Russia as of 10:00 am local time Saturday, Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti reports following the decision of the self-declared Russian-backed republics to organize an evacuation of civilians.

There is no way for CNN to independently verify the number.

RIA Novosti said 4,527 citizens of the Russian Federation, 5,806 citizens of Ukraine and another 23 foreigners had crossed, according to what it called "a source familiar with the situation." Russian agencies may quote police and security officials anonymously and CNN has been unable to independently verify those statements. 

Earlier Saturday, the deputy head of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations Viktor Yatsutsenko said: "Seven regions of Russia are ready to accept refugees. These are the Krasnodar Territory, Kursk, Voronezh, Belgorod, Oryol, Bryansk, Moscow regions," in addition to the Rostov region which borders Ukraine.

He said that in total, these regions are ready to receive more than 28,900 people, RIA reported.

Russian news agency TASS reported Saturday that "all border checkpoints in the Rostov region function only for entry into Russia."

"All checkpoints were transformed only for the entrance to the Russian Federation," said an official of the internal security service the FSB, according to TASS.

The evacuation orders were given Friday by the leaderships of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, who claimed they were necessary because of an imminent offensive by the Ukrainian army.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly denied any such plans.

5:34 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Russian Embassy in US rejects claims Russia was responsible for cyberattacks on Ukraine this week

From CNN's Karen Smith in Atlanta

Serhii Prokopenko, head of the National Cybersecurity Coordination Center, discusses recent events in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday, February 17, 2022.
Serhii Prokopenko, head of the National Cybersecurity Coordination Center, discusses recent events in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday, February 17, 2022. (Timothy Fadek/Redux for CNN)

The Russian Embassy in the US says it rejects claims made by the White House that Russia was responsible for a massive cyberattack on Ukraine earlier in the week.

Late Friday the Russian Embassy in the US wrote on Twitter, “We categorically reject these baseless statements of the administration and note that Russia has nothing to do with the mentioned events and in principle has never conducted and does not conduct any 'malicious' operations in cyberspace.”

Anne Neuberger, US deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, said on the same day the US believes the Russian government was responsible for wide-scale cyberattacks on Ukrainian banks during the week.

In a second post on Twitter late Friday, the Russian Embassy in the US said, “We have taken note of purely anti-Russian statements of Deputy National Security Adviser Anne Neuberger, who accused the Russian special services of cyberattacks on Ukrainian defense agencies and banks.”

Neuberger told reporters Friday in the White House briefing room, “We believe that the Russian government is responsible for wide-scale cyberattacks on Ukrainian banks this week. We have technical information that links the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, as known GRU infrastructure was seen transmitting high volumes of communication to Ukraine-based IP addresses and domains.”

The UK government also attributed on Friday recent cyberattacks on the Ukrainian banking sector to the GRU.

5:57 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

European Commission President says world is “watching in disbelief” amid largest troop buildup since Cold War

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, on February 19.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, on February 19. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images)

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said the world is “watching in disbelief” in the wake of the largest buildup of troops in Europe since “the darkest days of the Cold War.”

“The very reason that the European Union was once created is that we wanted to put an end to all European wars," von der Leyen said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

The world has been watching in disbelief as we face the largest buildup of troops on European soil since the darkest days of the Cold War," von der Leyen continued.

She added that the events “could reshape the entire international order.”

Highlighting Ukraine’s recent celebration of 30 years of independence, von der Leyen said there is an entire generation of Ukrainians born and bred in a free country who are now “confronted on a daily basis with external aggression and interference.”

“This is what the Kremlin's policies mean in practice, to instil fear and call it security, demands to deny 44 million Ukrainians from deciding freely about their own future, to deny a free country's right to independence and self determination,” she added.

“The consequences of this approach matter well beyond Ukraine.”

Speaking about Russia and China, von der Leyen said, “They seek a new era, as they say, to replace the existing international rules.”

“They prefer the rule of the strongest to the rule of law, intimidation and self-determination, coercion instead of cooperation."

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Moscow was attempting to roll back history and recreate its sphere of influence.

“The current crisis demonstrates the importance of the transatlantic relationship for European security,” Stoltenberg said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

“If the Kremlin's aim is to have less NATO on his borders, it will only get more NATO and if it wants to violate them, it will always get an even more united alliance,” said Stoltenberg, stating earlier that NATO was a defensive alliance and “will take all necessary measures to protect and defend.”

“Over the last years, our security environment has fundamentally changed for the worse. Peace cannot be taken for granted. Freedom and democracy are competitive and strategic competition is on the rise.”

5:27 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Putin and Macron to speak on phone Sunday

From CNN's Karen Smith and CNN’s Uliana Pavlova in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron give a joint press conference after meeting in Moscow on February 7.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron give a joint press conference after meeting in Moscow on February 7. (Thibault Camus/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron will speak by phone on Sunday, Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti said Saturday, citing the Kremlin pool.

Macron has become Putin's most frequent person to have conversation with in recent days (in recent times). The leaders of Russia and France will talk by phone over the weekend," RIA Novosti reported in a Twitter post.

Putin is expected to attend planned military drills Saturday where ballistic and cruise missiles will be launched, RIA Novosti reported Friday, citing the Russian Ministry of Defense. 

“The exercises will involve the Aerospace Forces, the Strategic Missile Forces, the Northern and Black Sea Fleets,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said according to RIA. 

“The exercise of the strategic deterrence forces was planned earlier to test the readiness of forces and means,” it continued.

4:51 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Separatist leader orders general mobilization as Western nations warn of Russia staging incidents

From CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

People are seen inside a bus in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Friday, February 18, after pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine's breakaway regions ordered the evacuation of civilians to Russia. 
People are seen inside a bus in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Friday, February 18, after pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine's breakaway regions ordered the evacuation of civilians to Russia.  (Erik Romanenko/TASS/Getty Images)

The leader of pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway state of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, ordered a general mobilization on Saturday.

Pushilin said he signed an order for general mobilization, claiming that Ukraine was planning an offensive against the region, also known as Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), in a video published on his Telegram account.

"I appeal to all the men of the republic, who are able to hold weapons in their hands, stand up for their families, their children, wives, mothers,” Pushilin said.

The evacuation of civilians has commenced, and several buses carrying residents had already arrived in Rostov-on-Don in Russia, Pushilin added.

The bigger picture: On Friday, Pushilin urged women, children, and the elderly to evacuate to Russia ahead of a purported Ukrainian invasion. 

While there has been a sharp rise in ceasefire violations across what is known as the line of contact between Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatist forces in the past two days, Ukrainian officials deny any plans to retake the Donbas region by force, saying that they see this week's incidents as an effort by Russia to create a pretext to launch an invasion.

On Friday, Foreign Ministers of Germany and France said they do not see “any grounds” for DPR’s allegation, warning that “staged incidents could be misused as a pretext for possible military escalation."

4:22 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Ukraine's President vows to attend Munich Security Conference on Saturday

From CNN's Mick Krever in Kramatorsk, Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the border troops in Donetsk, Ukraine on February 17.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the border troops in Donetsk, Ukraine on February 17. (Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed his presence at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday before returning to Kyiv later in the day, his office said in a statement Saturday morning. 

Zelensky will hold talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US Vice President Kamala Harris, the statement said.

"Zelensky expects concrete agreements on providing our country with additional military and financial support to strengthen Ukraine's resilience," it added.

The statement continued: "Naturally, the discussions at the Munich Security Conference this year will focus on current threats in Eastern Europe and the situation around Ukraine. Therefore, the position of our state must be presented enough for the issues of Ukraine to be resolved with the participation of Ukraine.

"The situation on the touch line in Donbas, in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and near the borders of Ukraine is being analyzed by special services of our state. There is a constant analysis of intelligence and exchange of information with partners. Ukraine regularly receives additional up-to-date intelligence on the activity of Russian forces.

"The situation in the east of the country is completely controlled by the Ukrainian security and defense forces."

Some background: CNN reported Friday Biden administration officials have privately urged Zelensky not to leave Ukraine to visit Munich given concerns about a possible incursion from Russia, according to three US officials and one senior Ukrainian official.

“That is a decision for him to make, but regardless of what decision he makes, he will find a strong partner in the United States,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during the briefing when asked if it would be wise for Zelensky to make that trip. 

Some US officials are concerned that if he leaves the country that could open the door for Russia to make false claims that he has fled. While officials had not explicitly asked Zelensky not to make the trip – and have been careful to make clear the decision was his to make – those concerns were communicated, one of the officials said. 

4:15 a.m. ET, February 19, 2022

Separatists in eastern Ukraine order mass evacuation as Ukraine warns of Russian provocation

From CNN's Tim Lister and Tamara Qiblawi in Kyiv and Lviv

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine's breakaway regions ordered the evacuation of civilians to Russia Friday, accusing Ukraine of planning a large military offensive against the two self-declared republics.

The restive eastern part of the country has witnessed the worst shelling in years over the last two days.

Each side accuses the other of heavy shelling of civilian areas. Ukrainian authorities say there were 60 breaches of the ceasefire Thursday, many of them by heavy weapons.

The Ukrainian government denies that it is planning any offensive in the east, accusing the separatists of launching a "disinformation campaign."

Authorities in the breakaway states of Donetsk and Luhansk said they were organizing the evacuations. Leonid Pasechnik, the most senior official in the pro-Russian breakaway Luhansk People's Republic, urged men to take up arms.

"The Russian Federation is ready to provide organized reception and accommodation on its territory of residents of the Luhansk People's Republic," said Pasechnik. "Once again, I appeal to all men who are able to hold weapons in their hands, to defend their land."

Ukrainians accuse separatists of staging attack in breakaway city

On Friday, a vehicle explosion in Donetsk was dismissed by Ukrainian and US officials as a staged attack designed to stoke tensions in eastern Ukraine. Video showed a fire in a parking lot and a badly damaged military vehicle, near the headquarters of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.

Images and video showed emergency services at the scene and a badly damaged vehicle identified by CNN as a Russian-made jeep. There's no way to verify what caused the damage to the vehicle or the fire.

We think that this is a staging and a provocation," Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, told CNN on WhatsApp.

A US State Department spokesman described it as a "false flag operation" and said incidents like the vehicle explosion and calls from separatist leaders to evacuate because of alleged Ukrainian aggression represented "further attempts to obscure through lies and disinformation that Russia is the aggressor in this conflict."

US President Joe Biden has said that there has been an uptick in Russian disinformation that could be used as a pretext for an invasion into Ukraine. Speaking at the White House on Friday, Biden said that he was "convinced" Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine, but added that "diplomacy is always a possibility."

Both the Ukrainian government and western officials have warned of the possibility of provocative actions by Russia and the separatist leadership to provide a pretext for a Russian offensive into Ukraine.

Read more on this story here: