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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8:36 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Ukraine President Zelensky says “we will not give anything to anyone” 

(Office of the President of Ukraine)
(Office of the President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the nation early on Tuesday saying “we don’t owe anything to anyone, and we will not give away anything to anyone” following Russia’s recent actions.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered what he called “peacekeeping” troops into two pro-Moscow regions of eastern Ukraine, after recognizing their independence. 

“We are on our land, we are not afraid of anything and anyone, we don't owe anything to anyone, and we will not give away anything to anyone. And we are confident of this,” Zelensky said in his video address, adding said the move was a violation of Ukraine’s “national integrity and sovereignty."

Zelensky added that Ukraine’s international borders will “remain as such” despite Russia’s “declarations and threats," and he said Ukraine counted on the “clear and effective steps” from its international supporters.

He said Ukraine had initiated an emergency meeting with the Normandy Four, which include Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France.

He warned that Putin’s latest move undermined current “peaceful” negotiations and “may mean a one-sided exit of Russian Federation out of the Minsk Agreement and ignoring of Normandy agreement."

Zelensky reiterated that Ukraine wanted “peace” though had been prepared for a Russian act of aggression for a “long time."

To Ukrainian citizens, he said Ukraine would deal with the crisis calmly and confidently, and he thanked the entire nation for their cool-headed reaction to the latest developments. He assured citizens there was no reason for a “sleepless night.”

8:13 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US officials have had conversations with Zelensky about leaving Kyiv should it become necessary

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Natasha Bertrand

US officials have had private conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about going to Lviv — a city more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from the capital of Kyiv — should such a step become necessary as Russia continues to escalate, according to sources familiar with the conversations. 

The White House has publicly said Zelensky's whereabouts are ultimately a decision for him to make. 

8:10 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Australia says it will be in lockstep with allies on any Russia sanctions

From CNN’s Sophie Jeong

Australia condemned Russian leader Vladimir Putin's decision to order Russian troops into two pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine and said it will be in "lockstep" with other countries over Russia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday.

“I can assure you the moment that other countries put in place strong and severe sanctions on Russia, we will be in lockstep with them, and we'll be moving just as quickly,” Morrison said during a media briefing on Australia’s investment in Antarctica.

Morrison also said that “some suggestion” Russian troops that entered into two pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine are peacekeeping troops is “nonsense.”

“Russia should step back. It should unconditionally withdraw, back behind its own borders, and stop threatening its neighbors,” Morrison added. “It's unacceptable, it's unprovoked, it's unwarranted.”

8:16 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Military convoy moving through streets of Donetsk, Russian media

From CNN's Paul Murphy

(From RTVI)
(From RTVI)

RTVI, a Russian media outlet, posted video of a military convoy moving through the streets of the city of Donetsk late Monday.

Donetsk is the capital of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin moved to recognize as independent earlier Monday.

The convoy included towed howitzers but could not be positively identified as Russian. Both the Russian backed separatists in Donetsk and the Russian army have the type of weaponry observed.  

8:26 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US official: Russia's decision to recognize separatist regions of Ukraine "is a step away from diplomacy"

From CNN's DJ Judd

Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer
Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer (CNN)

Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer said Russia’s move to recognize the independence of two separatist pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine regions “is a step away from diplomacy.”

Speaking with CNN's Erin Burnett, Finer noted that "it was a step to shred an international agreement that Russia made the Minsk agreement, which is the only agreement that has been made among the various countries involved in the Ukraine crisis."

Finer added that while the US is “not closing the door to diplomacy,” scheduled meetings between Secretary of State Tony Blinken and his Russian counterpart and a possible meeting between Biden and Putin “will depend on what happens in the coming days.”

Finer also noted that Russia's current activity shuts down the possibility of further peaceful discussions.

“We've also been quite clear that there can be no diplomatic meeting either with the foreign ministers, the secretary of state and Foreign Minister Lavrov, or with the President, if Russia takes further military action in Ukraine,” said Finer.

Meanwhile, said Finer, the most recent intelligence “absolutely” points to the possibility of Russian military action.

“We fully expect that Russia will take this military action,” he said. “We have offered them, and we continue to hold out some prospect of a diplomatic off-ramp for Russia, should they choose to deescalate the conflict that way, but all signs that we see on the ground, including the pageantry that unfolded the Kremlin today suggests a step toward additional military action, not diplomacy.”

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.