The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Sana Noor Haq, Jeevan Ravindran, Fernando Alfonso III, Amir Vera, Helen Regan and Brad Lendon, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022
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6:59 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022

Ukraine defense ministry reports further truce violations; Russia says exodus from eastern Ukraine continues

From CNN's Tim Lister, Olga Voitovych, Kostan Nechyporenko, Julia Kesa and Denis Lapin in Kyiv 

A Ukrainian serviceman in the frontline village of Krymske, Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 19.
A Ukrainian serviceman in the frontline village of Krymske, Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 19. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

The Ukrainian defense ministry has reported further ceasefire violations in the east, after a day of heavy weapons fire Saturday. 

The ministry said that in the first 11 hours of Sunday, "20 incidents of ceasefire violation by the Russian occupation forces were observed, including 18 incidents when the Russian occupation forces utilized weapons prohibited by the Minsk Agreements." 

The Minsk II agreement led to a shaky ceasefire between the Ukrainian military and Russian-backed separatist forces, and bans heavy weapons near the line of contact between the two sides. 

Ukraine said it recorded a total of 136 ceasefire violations on Saturday. 

The Ukrainian Border Guards said that because of the shelling one crossing point for international humanitarian organizations, Shchastia, at the Line of Contact had been closed since 8:00 a.m. local time Sunday. A UNHCR convoy that used the crossing point Friday said it had been caught in crossfire. 

Some residents of Donetsk -- which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists -- reported heavy shelling early Sunday. One woman contacted by CNN said she and her children wanted to move closer to the city center because of shelling in her district, Abakumova.

I can't survive another night like this. I'm really scared," she said. 

It's unclear where the shelling originated. The authorities in the breakaway republics persistently claim shelling by Ukrainian forces, who in turn regularly deny firing artillery across the front lines.

The woman also told CNN that on Saturday her neighbors had left for Russia and had been accommodated somewhere near Rostov-on-Don in a tent encampment. 

The Russian authorities say that more than 40,000 people have arrived in Russia after being evacuated from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, according to the acting head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Alexander Chupriyan. 

"They are located mainly in the Rostov region," Chupriyan said. 

CNN is unable to verify independently the numbers crossing into Russia.

The governor of the Rostov region, Vasily Gobulev, Saturday announced a state of emergency in the region to accommodate the influx.

The evacuation of civilians was ordered by the leaders of the breakaway republics on Friday, when they alleged that Ukrainian armed forces were planning an offensive against the regions. Ukraine has consistently denied any plans to attack the regions, which comprise some 7% of Ukrainian territory. 

Russia's Investigative Committee says it is beginning an investigation into media reports of fatalities due to shelling in Luhansk region. In a statement, the committee said: "The media reported that this morning the Armed Forces of Ukraine made an attempt to attack the positions of the People's Militia of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, while, according to preliminary data, there are casualties among the civilian population." 

7:09 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022

India advises citizens to leave Ukraine in view of "continued high levels of tensions and uncertainties"

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

The Indian government has advised its citizens “whose stay is not deemed essential” to leave Ukraine as tensions with Russia mount.

“In view of the continued high levels of tensions and uncertainties with respect to the situation in Ukraine, all Indian nationals whose stay is not deemed essential and all Indian students, are advised to leave Ukraine temporarily,” read a statement from the Indian Embassy in Kyiv on Sunday.

The statement added that commercial and charter flights were available for departure and that updates would be posted on the Embassy’s social media accounts.

The latest announcement comes on the back of an advisory issued on February 15, asking citizens to “consider leaving” Ukraine.

Days later the Ministry of Civil Aviation removed all restrictions on the number of flights and seats between India and Ukraine that had been earlier established as Covid-19 countermeasures.

India joins a host of other countries -- including the US, the UK, Greece and Pakistan -- that have advised their citizens not to travel to or from Ukraine, as tensions flare up with Russia.

On Saturday, the German and Austrian governments urged citizens not to travel to Ukraine, and immediately leave if they are in the country, while the French foreign ministry advised citizens in eastern Ukraine to exit immediately.

CNN's Xiaofei Xu, Inke Kappeler and Nadine Schmidt contributed reporting to this post.

7:44 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022

US Vice President Harris says deterrence effect of sanctions "still has merit," and US "will reevaluate the need that Ukraine has" in coming days

From CNN's DJ Judd

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to members of the media following the Munich Security Conference in Germany, on Sunday, Feb. 20.
US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to members of the media following the Munich Security Conference in Germany, on Sunday, Feb. 20. (Andrew Harnik, Pool/AP)

US Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters Sunday that her trip to Munich was “a productive trip in terms of the extensive bilateral meetings that we had, that were in furtherance of the ongoing collaboration and partnership with our allies.”

“It was important, in that, as you all know, this is a moment that is very dynamic -- if not every hour, certainly every day, there seem to be new moments of interest, and also of intelligence, and so we have affirmed, however, all of that being said, through these last couple of days, that this alliance is strong, probably stronger than it was before, and that this alliance has purpose and meaning founded on shared principles that are very much at play right now.” 

The Vice President, who will return to the US later Sunday, told reporters she will be participating in the National Security Council meeting on Ukraine later in the day with President Joe Biden.

Harris also offered some details on her meeting Saturday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, pointing to $650 million in defensive lethal assistance already transferred to Ukraine and an additional funding in loan guarantees, adding the situation is a “dynamic” one, “and depending on what happens in the coming days, we will reevaluate the need that Ukraine has and our ability to support, and we have been doing that through the course of these many months.”

In addition, Harris touted a slew of sanctions against Russia, which she called “some of the greatest sanctions, if not the strongest that we've ever issued.”

“It is directed at institutions and particular financial institutions and individuals, and it will exact absolute harm for the rest of the economy,” she added

“The sanctions, are a product not only of our perspective as the United States, but a shared perspective among our allies, and the allied relationship is such that we have agreed that the deterrence effect of these sanctions is still a meaningful one… we still sincerely hope that there is a diplomatic path out of this moment, and within the context of the fact that that window was still open, although it is absolutely narrowing, but within the context of a diplomatic path still being open, the deterrence effect, we believe, still has merit.”

At her speech at the conference on Saturday, Harris promised "significant and unprecedented" economic costs for Russia if they invaded Ukraine.

However, Zelensky urged global leaders to make sanctions against Russia public before a possible invasion of Ukraine occurs.

6:13 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022

Russians "capable of anything," says analyst Michael Bociurkiw

From CNN's Jeevan Ravindran in London

A Ukrainian serviceman sits in an observation point near the frontline village of Krymske, in the Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine, on Saturday, Feb. 19.
A Ukrainian serviceman sits in an observation point near the frontline village of Krymske, in the Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine, on Saturday, Feb. 19. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

As global leaders express concern around a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, global affairs analyst and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Michael Bociurkiw, said Russian President Vladimir Putin was weighing up "a lot of factors."

Reflecting on recent clashes along the Ukrainian-Russian border with reported increased shelling by Russian-backed separatists, Bociurkiw said he had a "really, really horrible feeling" about whether the clashes could spark a potential conflict, informed by his own experiences for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

I've been on the rebel side, I have stared at these thugs in the eyes as part of the OSCE. They are capable of anything. They have no morals, they will even kill their own people if need be. What they are doing, it's the Russian playbook, evacuating people, saying the Ukrainians are ready to attack them. And then they will use that as a pretext to build up this conflict even more."

The idea that Russia might create a narrative of an impending attack by Ukraine and use it as a pretext is now widespread, with US intelligence alleging that the so-called "false flag" operation could involve a "graphic" propaganda video.

"The West right now, the only real powerful thing they have in their arsenal right now is the sanctions," Bociurkiw told CNN's Michael Holmes from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

Bociurkiw said he agreed with remarks made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who told CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that possible sanctions against Russia should be made public.

"I don't think the Russians are taking it very seriously," he said. "Hence, I'm leaning in with Zelensky saying maybe some of those sanctions should be unleashed right now, especially for example lifting those golden visas that so many rich Russians got in the United Kingdom, things like that. That type of thing would get back to Putin right away."

Speaking at the security conference on Saturday, US Vice President Kamala Harris warned Russia of "significant and unprecedented" costs if they invaded Ukraine, vowing there would be a "swift, severe and united" response.

6:04 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022

Russia and Belarus troops to continue readiness checks, Belarus defense minister says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Fred Pleitgen in Moscow

Russia and Belarus military train during drills in Belarus, on Saturday, Feb. 19.
Russia and Belarus military train during drills in Belarus, on Saturday, Feb. 19. (Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr./AP)

The Belarusian defense minister said Sunday that Russian and Belarusian troops would continue readiness checks following the conclusion of joint exercises, implying that Russian forces may extend their stay in Belarus.

In a statement released by the Belarusian military on Telegram, Belarusian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Viktor Khrenin said, "The preliminary results of the completed joint operational exercise 'Allied Resolve-2022,' conducted as part of a comprehensive check of the response forces of the Union State, have concluded.

“In connection with the increase in military activity near the external borders of the Union State [Russia and Belarus] and the aggravation of the situation in the Donbas, the Presidents of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation decided to continue checking the response forces of the Union State," his statement continued.

"In its course, the stages of the defense of the Union State that were not covered with such a degree of detail by the training questions of the previous verification period, will be carefully worked out. In general, its focus will remain unchanged -- it is designed to ensure an adequate response and de-escalation of military preparations by those who wish us ill near our common borders." 

Khrenin did not give specifics on the location of those readiness checks, but "Allied Resolve" drills began in Belarusian territory on February 10. 

5:27 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022

Macron and Putin to speak Sunday

From CNN's Karen Smith, Uliana Pavlova, Samantha Beech and Xiaofei Xu

French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak by phone on Sunday, as diplomatic efforts to avert further Russian invasion of Ukraine continue.

“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," Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported in a Twitter post Saturday.

The call between Macron and Putin is due to take place a day after the French President spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had an “urgent” conversation Macron Saturday, where he discussed the “need and possible ways of immediate de-escalation,” as the US and allies insist Russia is moving to conduct an attack on Ukraine.

“Had an urgent conversation with President @EmmanuelMacron. Informed about the aggravation on the frontline, our losses, the shelling of [Ukraine’s] politicians & international journalists. Discussed the need and possible ways of immediate de-escalation & political-diplomatic settlement,” Zelensky tweeted.

Zelensky also told the French president that Kyiv won’t respond to provocations from separatists in the Donbas region, an Élysée Palace source said following the hour-long phone conversation.

The two leaders agreed on the need to find a diplomatic solution to the current crisis, according to the source. 

“The President [Macron] will take all the useful initiatives to ensure peace and security in Europe,” the source said.

For Paris, the important task now is to open talks that can guarantee the sovereignty and safety of Ukraine, and Kyiv will be included in these discussions, the source said.

“Nothing regarding Ukraine will be decided without the Ukranians,” the Élysée Palace source said.

Referring to the upcoming call between Macron and Putin, the source added Paris hopes to “construct a useful roadmap for the coming days.”

5:21 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022

Russia planning "biggest war in Europe since 1945," says UK PM Boris Johnson

From CNN's Manveena Suri and Lindsay Isaac

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Matt Dunham/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia is planning "the biggest war in Europe since 1945," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC during an interview that aired on Sunday.

“I'm afraid to say, that the plan that we're seeing, is for something that could be really the biggest war in Europe since 1945,” he said.

He added that “people need to understand that the sheer cost in human life that that could entail not just for Ukrainians, but also for, for Russians and for young Russians.”

On the issue of sanctions, Johnson said the aim was to impact not just “the associates of Vladimir Putin but also all companies, organizations of strategic importance to Russia.”

“We're going to stop Russian companies raising money on UK markets and we’re, even with our American friends, going to stop them trading in pounds and dollars that will very hard,” he said.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Saturday, Johnson said that in preparing to invade Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is “gravely miscalculating," adding that Moscow would have “absolutely nothing to gain from this catastrophic venture and everything to lose.”

Johnson urged Moscow to de-escalate tensions before it’s too late.

I fear that a lightning war would be followed by a long and hideous period of reprisals and revenge and insurgency, and Russian parents would mourn the loss of young Russian soldiers, who in their way are every bit as innocent as the Ukrainians now bracing themselves for attack," he said.

Johnson said, “We don’t fully know what President Putin intends,” adding that “the omens are grim and that is why we must stand strong together.”

Johnson's remarks come a day after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia was "moving into the right positions to conduct an attack."

"They're uncoiling and now poised to strike," Austin said, speaking from Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday. 

"If you look at the stance he is in today, it's apparent [Putin] has made a decision and they are moving into the right positions to conduct an attack.” 

Echoing US President Joe Biden's assertion that Putin had made up his mind on invading, Austin added that the US would pursue a diplomatic solution "until the very last minute, until it's not possible."

However, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has countered Western leaders' heightened claims that a Russian invasion is imminent.

When asked about the aggressive use of US intelligence to dissuade Putin from invading Ukraine, Zelensky said he was "grateful for the work that both of our intelligence has been doing. But the intelligence I trust is my intelligence.

"I trust Ukrainian intelligence who ... understand what's going on along our borders, who have different intelligence sources and understand different risk based on intercepted data... this information should be used," Zelensky told CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour in a one-on-one interview at the security conference on Saturday.

He continued: "We are not really living in delusion. We understand what can happen tomorrow ... just putting ourselves in coffins and waiting for foreign soldiers to come in is not something we are prepared to do."

Zelensky then called for international partners to support Ukraine by investing in the country. "Strengthen our arms... our economy. Invest in our country. Bring your business in.

"We are not panicking, we want to live our lives," he added.

CNN's Ross Levitt, Karen Smith, Maegan Vazquez, Kevin Liptak, Betsy Klein, Sam Fossum, Emmet Lyons and Lauren Said-Moorhouse contributed reporting to this post.

This post has been updated.

4:39 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022

Australian PM warns Russia the world will work together to protect Ukraine

From CNN’s Teele Rebane in Hong Kong

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (Darrian Traynor/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a warning to Russia on Sunday, saying the world will be moving together to counteract any violence it may inflict on Ukraine.

Should they follow through on their acts of violence against Ukraine. We will follow through with sanctions, together and in partnership with all of our other allies and partners,” Morrison told reporters Sunday.

“The world will be moving together to seek to counteract what would be a terrible act of violence, unprovoked, unjustified, unwarranted, unacceptable,” Morrison said. 

Morrison said there have never been any plans to deploy Australian troops to Eastern Europe, but the Australian government is working closely with international allies to support Ukraine in cyberspace and other issues.

4:16 a.m. ET, February 20, 2022

China's foreign minister urges peace in Ukraine

From CNN’s Philip Wang in Atlanta

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (Janine Schmitz/Photothek/Getty Images)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says all parties in the Ukraine crisis should work towards de-escalation instead of hyping up war. 

During his virtual address to the 58th Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Wang said territorial integrity and independence of all countries should be respected and safeguarded. 

In a virtual address to delegates at the Munich Security Conference in Germany Saturday, Wang said territorial integrity and independence of all countries should be respected and safeguarded. 

“This is a basic norm of international relations that embodies the purposes of the UN Charter. It is also the consistent, principled position of China. And that applies equally to Ukraine,” he said. “If anyone questions China’s attitude on this matter, it is an ill-intended sensationalism, and a distortion of China’s position.”

Wang added it is an imperative to return to the Minsk II agreement as quickly as possible, and that to his knowledge, Russia, the EU, and the US all expressed their support to the agreement.

As for the security of Europe, Wang said all parties are free to raise their own concerns, and Russia’s "reasonable security concerns" should be respected and taken seriously. 

“China hopes all parties will pursue dialogue and consultation to find a solution that is truly conducive to safeguarding the security of Europe,” he said.

China -- which has its own tensions with the West -- has repeatedly expressed diplomatic support for its ally, Russia as tensions over Ukraine have intensified. In a joint statement issued at the start of February, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping said both sides opposed "further enlargement of NATO." Russia fears Ukraine may join the alliance.