The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis

By Helen Regan, Brad Lendon, Rob Picheta, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0629 GMT (1429 HKT) February 22, 2022
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11:20 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

White House pushes back on Putin suggestion US offered possibility of "moratorium" on Ukraine NATO membership 

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

A senior administration official says US President Biden has made no assurances or commitments privately to Russian President Vladimir Putin about Ukraine's NATO membership that he hasn't made in public. 

There hasn't been any position change in the US view of NATO's membership, which is that they remain committed to an open door policy for the defense alliance.

Still, as Biden stated most clearly last month, there is no expectation that Ukraine would be able to join NATO anytime soon.

"The likelihood that Ukraine is going to join NATO in the near term is not very likely, based on much more work they have to do in terms of democracy and a few other things going on there, and whether or not the major allies in the West would vote to bring Ukraine in right now," Biden said.

Earlier Monday in a security council meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that Biden had given him an assurance Ukraine would not be admitted to NATO soon and its potential membership might be subject to a moratorium.  

“The American colleague assured me that Ukraine is not going to be admitted [to NATO] tomorrow," Putin said. "Moreover, some kind of moratorium is possible.”

“My answer is simple: We believe that this is not a concession to us, it is simply the implementation of your plans," Putin added.

Before leaving the Munich Security Conference Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters, “NATO is a membership — it is about nations coming together as a group, making decisions collectively, around again, principles, and what will be then the conditions and the standards of membership. And so that is the process. It doesn't happen overnight.”

“No one country can say I want to be in, therefore I will be, and no one country can say you can't be. And isn't that at the heart of the very issue we are presented with in terms of Russia's aggression, or stated aggression towards Ukraine," she continued.

CNN's Nathan Hodge and Anna Chernova contributed reporting from Moscow.

10:39 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

French and Russian foreign ministers will meet on Friday in preparation of potential Macron-Putin meeting

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will travel to Paris to meet with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday to hold preparatory talks for a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a statement from the French Foreign Ministry on Monday.  

The two presidents have accepted the principle of a summit, but Paris has imposed a pre-condition similar to that from Washington. 

“The Minister reiterated that this meeting could only take place if Russia did not invade Ukraine,” the statement said.   

Le Drian also emphasized the need to hold a meeting of the trilateral contact group as soon as possible. 

“The Minister encouraged his Russian counterpart to use his influence with the de facto representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, who are currently refusing to hold this meeting,” the statement read.  

Before coming to Paris, Lavrov is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Geneva on Thursday to hold talks in preparation for a potential meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Putin.  

11:27 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Putin: Our priority is peace, not confrontation, but a Ukraine NATO membership would pose security threat

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council, in Moscow, Russia, on February 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council, in Moscow, Russia, on February 21. (Aleksey Nikolskyi/Sputnik/AP)

Moscow’s priority is to ensure security guarantees are reached with NATO to maintain peace, “not a confrontation,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said Monday, cautioning however that the admission of Ukraine into NATO would pose a security threat to Russia.

“In recent months, at the end of last year, we stepped up our efforts with our main partners in Washington and NATO to finally agree security measures and to ensure the peaceful development of our country. This is our priority, not a confrontation,” Putin said.

“But we must understand the reality we are living in, and I have said many times already that if Russia faces a threat like admitting Ukraine into NATO, then the threat against our country will be multiplied,” he added.

Speaking during a meeting of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, Putin noted that “using Ukraine as a tool of confrontation against Russia is a serious and large threat” to Moscow.

“Russia has always tried to resolve all conflicts by peaceful means. Nevertheless, the Kyiv authorities conducted two punitive operations in these territories [Donetsk and Luhansk], and it seems that we are now witnessing an escalation for the third time,” Putin said.

It is not immediately clear what operations Putin was referring to.

Ukrainian officials have denied what has been described as "disinformation" and "deliberate provocations" by the Russian Federation.

10:40 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

White House: President Biden being briefed "regularly" today on Russia-Ukraine crisis

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden speaks during press conference at the White House on February 18, in Washington, DC.
US President Joe Biden speaks during press conference at the White House on February 18, in Washington, DC. (Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

US President Biden has no public events on his schedule this Presidents’ Day, but a White House official says he is being briefed “regularly” by his national security team on the Russia-Ukraine crisis on this federal holiday and the White House is “monitoring events closely.”

On Friday, Biden delivered remarks about the ongoing crisis, saying he is now convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine, but emphasized that room for diplomacy remains.

9:59 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Ukraine's foreign minister calls for the inclusion of Kyiv and other allies in possible talks with Russia 

From CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba proposed an alternative to possible bilateral talks between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, calling for the inclusion of Ukraine and other allies. 

“Ukraine welcomes any diplomatic efforts to prevent escalation of the conflict, but the most suitable format for the discussion regarding de-escalation and forming new guarantees of security would be a summit in the following format: five permanent UN Security Council members, plus Ukraine, Germany and Turkey,” Kuleba told reporters in Brussels.

According to the White House, Biden has agreed “in principle” to a meeting with Putin, providing Russia does not invade Ukraine.

The meeting, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, would happen after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet on Thursday.

Speaking during a news briefing following a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, Kuleba also announced that an agreement had been reached, in principle, for the EU to “roll out an advisory training military mission” in Ukraine.

“These are not combat forces, this is a new element in the cooperation between Ukraine and the European Union,” Kuleba said.

“The details, the main parameters and the timeline of this roll out are still to be discussed, but it's critical that we open this new page in our relations,” he added.

10:46 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Russian foreign minister says he will meet with US secretary of state on Thursday in Geneva

From CNN's Sarah Dean

Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a joint news conference in Moscow, on February 21.
Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a joint news conference in Moscow, on February 21. (Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS/Getty Images)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he will meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Geneva on Thursday, in comments at a security council meeting.

What the US is saying: On Sunday, Blinken told CNN that he's planning to meet with Lavrov this week "provided Russia doesn't invade Ukraine in the interim."

"If [Russia] doesn't invade, I will be there. I hope he'll be there, too. I will do everything I can to see if we can advance a diplomatic resolution to this crisis created by Russia and its aggression against Ukraine," Blinken said.

He noted that the US "put on the table a number of ideas that we can pursue that would strengthen security" for Russia, the United States, and the rest of Europe.

"That's the conversation I welcome having with Foreign Minister Lavrov. It depends entirely on if Russia invades or not," Blinken said.

10:22 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Putin says he's considering request to recognize separatist-held regions of Ukraine 

From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Anna Chernova in Moscow

Ukrainian Military Forces servicemen walk through trenches on the front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on February 21.
Ukrainian Military Forces servicemen walk through trenches on the front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on February 21. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he is considering a request from pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine's breakaway regions to recognize them as independent.

"The purpose of today’s meeting is to listen to colleagues and to determine our further steps in this direction, including the appeal from the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic to Russia seeking recognition of their sovereignty and the resolution of the state Duma on the same subject," Putin told his security council, in comments aired on television.

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

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.

Ukraine said it recorded more than 100 truce violations in the east, after a day of heavy weapons fire that saw fears of a Russian invasion mount.

The leaders of the two breakaway pro-Russian territories 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. 

About the recent history in Donbas: War broke out in 2014 after Russian-backed rebels seized government buildings in towns and cities across eastern Ukraine. Intense fighting left portions of the Donbas region's eastern Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts in the hands of Russian-backed separatists. Russia also annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 in a move that sparked global condemnation.

The separatist-controlled areas in Donbas 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 the Ukrainian government and separatist-controlled areas. The Minsk Agreements (named after the capital of Belarus where they were concluded) ban heavy weapons near the Line of Contact.

Read more about the separatist-held regions here.

CNN's Tamara Qiblawi, Nathan Hodge and Ivana Kottasová contributed reporting to this post. 

9:31 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Latest UK intel shows "in some ways" Putin's plan has "already begun," prime minister's spokesperson says 

From CNN's Luke McGee, Niamh Kennedy and Alex Hardie in London  

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow, on February 3.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow, on February 3. (Alexei Nikolsky/TASS/Getty Images)

UK intelligence indicates that Russia intends to launch an invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said Monday, adding that “in some ways, Putin's plan has in effect already begun.”

“We're seeing elements of the Russian playbook that we would expect to see in certain situations starting to play out in real time,” Johnson’s spokesperson told a lobby briefing on Monday. 

Last week, Britain’s Defense Ministry warned that Russia “retains a significant military presence that can conduct an invasion without further warning,” posting on Twitter a map showing Putin's “possible axis of invasion.”

The map showed Russia’s capability to carry out phase one ground movements towards the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, from two points along the Belarusian border, and one point from the Western Russia border.  

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is expected to provide an update on the Ukraine crisis in statement to parliament on Monday. 

9:24 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

EU adopts emergency support package for Ukraine

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza and Arnaud Siad

People board up a window at a school damaged in a shelling attack, in Donetsk region, on February 21.
People board up a window at a school damaged in a shelling attack, in Donetsk region, on February 21. (Alexander Ryumin/TASS/Getty Images)

The European Union will provide an emergency support package of 1.2 billion euros ($1.36 billion) in the form of loans to foster stability in Ukraine, the council said in a news release on Monday. 

“It intends to provide swift support in a situation of acute crisis and to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience,” the council added.

The council “fast-tracked” and adopted the package 21 days after the European Commission presented its proposal, saying “the current geopolitical tensions are having a detrimental effect on Ukraine's economic and financial stability.”

“Persistent security threats have already triggered a substantial outflow of capital. Ukraine is losing access to international capital markets due to the heightened geopolitical uncertainty and its impact on the economic situation,” it added.

“The EU has acted swiftly and decisively to help Ukraine. Within 21 days, we completed the necessary work, which means that €1.2 billion macro-financial assistance can now reach Ukraine," French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire said about the package.

According to the news release, the financial assistance will have a duration of 12 months and will consist of two disbursements, subject to the satisfactory implementation of the ongoing International Monetary Fund program in Ukraine and entry into force of a Memorandum of Understanding on “specific structural policy measures,” which will be agreed between the European Commission and Ukraine.