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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7:24 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

UN Security Council expected to convene an urgent meeting soon

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

The UN Security Council is expected to convene an urgent meeting tonight at 9 p.m. ET at the request of the Ukrainians, two UN diplomats tell CNN. 

This will be an open session where all member nations — including the Russians and the US — are expected to make statements. 

“We support Ukraine’s call for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. The Security Council must demand that Russia respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a UN Member State,” said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

“The Kremlin’s actions today are a wholesale rejection of the Minsk agreements and a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2202 (2015). Russia’s announcement is nothing more than theater, apparently designed to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield also said it was “an unprovoked violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” for President Putin to recognize parts as the Donbas region "independent states.” 

7:37 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US representative: Putin's "goal and intent is to take over all of Ukraine"

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Rep. Ted Lieu
Rep. Ted Lieu (CNN)

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to order Russian troops into two separatist pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine, Rep. Ted Lieu said Putin's actions and words show "his goal and intent is to take over all of Ukraine."

"This action by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin further confirms that [GOP Sen.] Mitt Romney was right when he called Russia the No. 1 geopolitical foe. Depending on where their forces go, it could determine whether we enter a very large war or not," Lieu told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"If Putin merely sends forces into the existing regions in Donbas where the Russian-backed separatists already control those regions, that will be different than if he sent his forces into the regions in which the Ukrainian forces currently control. That could be very bad," Lieu continued.

Earlier today, Putin ordered troops into two separatist pro-Moscow areas in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine — the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic. It came just hours after he signed decrees recognizing the independence of the Moscow-backed regions.

Lieu went on to comment on the larger context of the speech Putin gave earlier on Monday.

"What you saw in Putin's speech today is a revisionist history, and he is not only saying that these regions should fall under Russian control. He's basically saying the entire Soviet Union should not have collapsed and he wants to rebuild Russia back to what the Soviet Union was," said Lieu, adding, "that is very dangerous."

Lieu says he feels that Putin is sending a clear message as to what his overall agenda may be.

"If you look at his build-up of troops along the border, if you look at his speech, then it looks pretty clear to me that his goal and intent is to take over all of Ukraine," he said.

7:05 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US representative on Putin ordering troops into Ukraine: "This is not a peacekeeping operation"

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Rep. Gerry Connolly
Rep. Gerry Connolly (CNN)

US Rep. Gerry Connolly is pushing back on Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the ordering of Russian troops into two separatist pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine is not a "peacekeeping" operation.

"This is not a peacekeeping operation, and we need to stop enabling Putin with even the use of that word," Connolly told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "These are units of the Russian military who are using the pretext of the independence of Russian-occupied sovereign territory of Ukraine to further that occupation and to expand it," Connolly continued.

"Right now, Russia's surrogates and Russian troops occupy about a third of Donetsk to Luhansk. What he proposes to do immediately is to extend that to the remaining two-thirds. That is an invasion by any sense of the imagination," he added.

Connolly told Blitzer there are "three immediate things" the United States should do in response to Putin's actions:

  1. "Impose some of the most consequential sanctions ever contemplated by an alliance like ours that will cripple the Russian economy in virtually every critical sector."
  2. "Shore up our NATO borders to make it very clear to Putin that we are prepared to protect NATO members from any incursion on the part of Russia."
  3. "Help the Ukrainians defend themselves, and that means providing military equipment, training, and the like, to help them defend their own territory against the Russians."

Connolly added that the United States "should not cooperate with Vladimir Putin's fiction [at] any time," adding that it is "time to show him that there are consequences for his reckless behavior."

6:36 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Putin moves in eastern Ukraine opening salvo to possible large-scale invasion, US and western officials say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood, Jennifer Hansler, Jim Sciutto and Alex Marquardt

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to recognize breakaway eastern Ukrainian territories as independent appears to be the opening salvo of a larger potential military operation targeting Ukraine, nearly a dozen US and western officials tell CNN.  

“This is Potemkin politics,” a senior administration official told reporters on Monday. “President Putin is accelerating the very conflict that he's created.”

The US expects Russian troops could move into the Donbas region of Ukraine as soon as Monday evening or Tuesday, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two pro-Moscow territories as independent, a senior US official familiar with latest intelligence tells CNN. 

The US is still seeing preparations for a potential invasion including loading amphibious ships and loading equipment for airborne units.

The US and western officials said Putin’s decision to sign the decree, which proclaims that the Russia-backed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) are independent territories, has given Putin the justification he wanted to send in Russian forces and potentially wage a broader assault on Ukraine in the name of protecting the separatist regions. 

The Kremlin announced on Monday evening that Russia would be sending “peacekeeping” forces into the breakaway territories, confirming many officials’ worst fears.  

“That’s your invasion,” said one European diplomat. “If we don’t act on this as we have said we would in case of a further invasion, we will have seriously undermined our credibility,” the diplomat said.  

Still, in a call with reporters, the senior administration official suggested to reporters that the mere movement of new Russian “peacekeeping” forces into eastern Ukraine would not itself trigger the full sanctions package the administration has threatened in the event of a Russian invasion, noting that “there have been Russian forces present in these areas” since 2014.  

“So we're going to be looking very closely at what they do over the coming hours and days and our response will be measured, according, again, to their actions,” the official said. The official said “it now looks like Russia will be operating openly in that region, and we will be responding accordingly.”

The official would not identify what line Russian troops would have to cross in Eastern Ukraine to be considered a new invasion. 

The White House said on Monday that Biden would impose new financial restrictions on the breakaway republics, and a senior administration official told reporters that more actions would be announced on Tuesday. But some officials say the penalties do not go far enough — especially considering Biden’s claim last month that if “any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion” and “will be met with severe and coordinated economic response.”

CNN's Oren Liebermann, Katie Bo Lillis and Sebastian Shukla contributed to this report.

6:25 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US official says Biden-Putin summit is unlikely

From CNN's DJ Judd

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A summit between US President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely, a senior administration official told reporters Monday, following intelligence and indications on the ground that Russia is likely to take military action in neighboring Ukraine.

On Sunday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden agreed "in principle" to a meeting with Putin sometime after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet on Thursday — as long as Russia does not further invade Ukraine.

But the official said that while the Biden administration was open to further engagements between the two leaders, “if we thought it made sense and could have a beneficial impact on the crisis,” intelligence reports indicating further Russian military action would preclude any leader-to-leader summit.

“Our strong sense, based on everything that we are seeing on the ground in the areas around the Ukraine to the north, to the east, to the south, is that Russia is continuing to prepare for military action that could take place in the coming hours or days,” the official told reporters, adding the administration “certainly can't commit to a meeting that has as a predicate that Russia won't take military action, when it looks as eminently like they will.”
6:14 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Germany, France and US agree recognition of separatist areas "will not go unanswered," German official says

From Sharon Braithwaite and Nadine Schmidt

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden have agreed that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decrees recognizing two separatist pro-Moscow regions in Ukraine as independent “will not go unanswered," Scholz’s spokesperson said. 

In a statement Monday, Scholz’s spokesperson said Scholz spoke to Biden and Macron on Monday evening about the "deteriorating situation" after the Russian President formally recognized the two so-called People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk on Monday.

"All three parties agreed that this unilateral move by Russia is a clear breach of the Minsk Agreement. Germany, France and the US sharply condemned the Russian President's decision. This move will not go unanswered," the spokesperson said.

Scholz, Biden and Macron expressed their solidarity with Ukraine and commended Ukraine's cautious response to date, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, he added.

"The partners agreed not to let up in their commitment to Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. At the same time, every effort will be made to prevent the situation from escalating further," the spokesperson concluded. 

6:10 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Ukraine requests UN Security Council meeting, Ukrainian foreign minister says 

From CNN's Aliza Kassim Khalidi

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has asked the UN Security Council for an urgent meeting, according to a tweet in the early hours of Tuesday morning local time. 

“Ukraine has requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council due to Russia’s illegal actions. We have already sent the request to the Council," Kuleba tweeted.

See the tweet here:

6:03 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Blinken: "We will take appropriate steps" in response to Putin's recognition of separatist regions

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

(Ina Fassbender/Pool/AP/FILE)
(Ina Fassbender/Pool/AP/FILE)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as independent “represents a complete rejection of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements."

In statement Monday, Blinken added that the move "directly contradicts Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy, and is a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“President Biden will sign an executive order that will prohibit all new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called 'Donetsk and Luhansk People's republics' regions of Ukraine," Blinken said.

“We will continue to coordinate with Ukraine and our Allies and partners to take appropriate steps in response to this unprovoked and unacceptable action by Russia. The EO [executive order] is designed to prevent Russia from profiting off of this blatant violation of international law. It is not directed at the people of Ukraine or the Ukrainian government and will allow humanitarian and other related activity to continue in these regions,” he said.

6:21 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US official says Russia is preparing for invasion, but diplomacy will be pursued "until the tanks roll"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

Russian troops continue preparations for an invasion of Ukraine, but diplomacy will be pursued "until the tanks roll," a senior US administration official says. 

"Russian troops have continued to move closer to the border," the official said, saying they see plans being laid for an invasion "at any moment."

The official acknowledged Russian President Vladimir Putin's order of "peacekeeping" troops to enter Moscow-claimed regions in eastern Ukraine, but said the US would respond to Russian actions and not words. 

"We will observe and assess what actions Russia actually takes and respond accordingly," the official said.

The official declined to provide additional information or confirmation of Russian troops entering Ukraine, but said the US was closely observing events on the ground.

And the official noted that Russian troops operating in these regions wasn't a new phenomenon.

"This has been the state of affairs in that region" since 2014, the official said.

The official said the US would take additional actions to respond to Russia's recognition of the breakaway territories on Tuesday.

"We will take further measures tomorrow to hold Russia accountable for this clear violation of international law and Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity," the official said.

Watch CNN's Oren Liebermann report on the Pentagon reaction to Putin's remarks: