February 22, 2022 Ukraine-Russia crisis news

By Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Jessie Yeung, Brad Lendon, Rob Picheta and Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022
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8:46 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Putin's "ultimate goal is to destroy Ukraine," Ukrainian foreign minister tells CNN

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. (Carolyn Kaster/Pool/AP)

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba says he knows what Russian President Vladimir Putin's long-term objective is.

"His ultimate goal is to destroy Ukraine. He's not interested in parts of Ukraine. He is not interested in even keeping the entire country under his control," Kubela said during a live interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

Putin "wants the idea of the Ukrainian statehood to fail. This is his objective."

Kuleba's comments come one day after President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine and signed decrees recognizing the independence of the Moscow-backed regions.

"What I know for certain, and this was eloquently proved, regretfully, in his address yesterday, is that he hates [the] Ukrainian statehood, he believes that Ukraine has no right to exist," Kuleba said of Putin. 

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday described Russia's maneuverings in Ukraine as "the beginning of a Russian invasion." Biden announced what he labeled "the first tranche of sanctions" to punish Moscow, including on two large financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their family members. 

Though Kuleba supports the sanctions as laid out by Biden, calling them an "important" message, he maintains they are insufficient as the situation stands now.

"No sanctions will be enough until Russian boots withdraw from Ukrainian soil," said Kuleba on CNN. "This is [the] fundamental principle, that we have to keep putting pressure on Russia and we in Ukraine proceed from the fact that the sanctions announced today by President Biden is just the beginning of the process of deterring president Putin and making him withdraw."

On the topic of specific forthcoming sanctions, Kuleba suggested no single option or possibility should be left off the global table.

"We want every instrument available to be used in order to stop Putin," he said. "If the price of saving a country is the most, harshest sanctions possible, then we should go for the harshest sanctions possible."

While Kuleba told Tapper that the moving of Russian troops into the Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donbas region would mark another crossing of a line by Putin, he noted that the ongoing conflict manifests itself along a multitude of fronts.

"We should be aware of the simple fact: this is hybrid warfare. Russia can attack physically, but also Russian can attack us in cyberspace ... We are in a dialogue with partners including the United States about the identification of these red lines which will be responded with sanctions," he said, adding, "I want to make it clear that we have to get ready to act in a very swift manner because the situation can change literally every hour."

Asked by Tapper to explain why the United States — which sits thousands of miles from Ukraine — ought to be invested in the conflict, Kuleba pointed to three key factors.

  • "First, in 1994 Ukraine abandoned its nuclear arsenal which was the third in size in the world ... We abandoned it in return for security guarantees issued in particular by the United States. We were promised that if anyone attacks us, the United States would be among countries who will be helping us."
  • "Second, what is happening in Ukraine is not only about Ukraine. President Putin challenges Euro-Atlantic order. If the West fails in Ukraine, the next target of Putin will be one of the NATO members on its eastern flank."
  • "Third, if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, other players across the globe who want to change rules, who want to bypass the United States, they will see that this is possible, that the West is incapable of defending what it stands for."

In summing up his explanation as to why the US involvement in the conflict is appropriate, Kuleba said: "All in all ... Americans should be interested in keeping the world order as it stands and the future of this order is being decided right now in Ukraine."

Read more about the CNN interview with the Ukrainian foreign minister here.

7:00 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

US Senate Majority Leader Schumer requests all-senator briefing on Ukraine

From CNN's Ted Barrett 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, has requested an all- senator briefing on the Ukraine situation from the Biden administration, according to spokesman for Schumer.

Details of where and when the briefing may occur were not immediately available.

The Senate is in recess this week, as is the House.

The request comes as the Biden administration unveiled new sanctions to respond to Moscow, with President Biden describing the events now underway in Ukraine as "the beginning of a Russian invasion."

6:38 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

German chancellor: Nobody should bet on the future of Nord Stream 2 after Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's From Inke Kappeler in Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said nobody can predict the future of the Nord Stream 2gas pipeline, following Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine, after earlier halting the progression of the pipeline. 

Speaking in a televised address on German television on Tuesday evening, local time, Scholz said, “We are having a situation right now when nobody should bet on it [Nord Stream].” He added, “We are far away from putting [the pipeline] into operation.”

Earlier Tuesday, Germany said it was halting certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline following Moscow's actions in eastern Ukraine on Monday. The 750-mile pipeline was completed in September but has not yet received final certification from German regulators. Without that, natural gas cannot flow through the Baltic Sea pipeline from Russia to Germany.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and several EU countries have opposed the pipeline since it was announced in 2015, warning the project would increase Moscow's influence in Europe.

Nord Stream 2 could deliver 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. That's more than 50% of Germany's annual consumption and could be worth as much as $15 billion to Gazprom, the Russian state owned company that controls the pipeline.

Speaking Tuesday evening, Scholz said what happened this week has been “a great disappointment.” He said, “Putin has built up enough troops along the Ukrainian borders to really be able to fully invade the country.”

The chancellor said he believes the Russian president “actually intends to change some of Europe’s geography and that is very threatening.”

Pointing out that Europeans had agreed on not changing the borders again, Scholz said, “Who is looking back in history will find many borders that used to be different. If all of them will be discussed again, then we will have a very non-peaceful time ahead of us and therefore we have to come back to country’s sovereignty and borders that are not violated.”

“What Putin has done is a breach of international law that we cannot and will not accept," Scholz added.

CNN's Charles Riley and Julia Horowitz contributed reporting to this post.

6:23 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

White House: "Door to diplomacy" still open but now "isn't the appropriate time" for US-Russia meetings

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that “the door to diplomacy still remains open,” with Russia, even as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced he’d no longer meet with his Russian counterpart following the administration’s conclusion that Russian aggression into neighboring Ukraine constituted an invasion.

“As I think our secretary of state conveyed, it isn't the appropriate time, as Russia is taking escalatory steps and preparing to invade, for him to meet with the foreign minister,” Psaki told CNN’s MJ Lee, adding that any summit with US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin was only agreed to in principle, “but there were never any specific plans or timeline really in the works for that.”

In remarks from the US State Department Tuesday, Blinken announced he’d no longer meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva this week, the latest sign that diplomatic avenues with Russia over Ukraine are quickly closing.

According to Blinken, he sent a letter to Lavrov Tuesday to inform him of the decision.

Moving forward, Psaki said, the US remains open to diplomacy in concert with European partners “once, if and when, [Russia] deescalate.”

The President, she added, is “always going to be open to having leader to leader conversations, but this isn't the time to do it, when, and we said this at the time as well, when they are, when President Putin is overseeing the invasion of a sovereign country.”

5:56 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Ukrainian foreign minister says Putin can still be stopped  

From CNN’s Sugam Pokharel and Sharon Braithwaite  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, joined by Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, joined by Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. (Carolyn Kaster/Pool/AP)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin can still be stopped if Ukraine and its allies “act in a very reserved way and keep mounting pressure on” the Russian leader.  

“What stops him is only our unity and resolve. And we can stop him,” Kuleba said at a news conference in Washington, urging the pressure against Russia should “continue to be stepped up.” 

He said that Ukraine doesn’t have any plans to evacuate Mariupol — a port city located in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.  

“We have two plans. Plan A is to utilize every tool of diplomacy to deter Russia and prevent further escalation. And if that fails, Plan B is to fight for every inch of our land, and every city and every village. Then, to fight until we win, of course,” Kuleba said.  

He went on to call the latest US sanctions against Russia announced Tuesday “specific” and “painful” for Moscow.  

Responding to a question from a reporter asking “if what we've seen so far is a minor invasion […] and it only warrants lesser US sanctions,” Kuleba said: “There is no such thing as minor, middle or major invasion. Invasion is an invasion.” 

The foreign minister said that Ukraine becoming a NATO member is a choice of the people of Ukraine, adding that “no one but Ukraine and NATO will decide on the future of our relationship.” 

“It has never been about NATO for Putin. It's just an excuse. Even if you do nothing, President Putin will find a reason to accuse us of doing something,” he continued.  

Calling Ukraine a country that exists in a “security vacuum,” he said Kyiv “did a lot to strengthen global security by abandoning” its nuclear arsenal.  

“That was a huge contribution. And we expect the principle of reciprocity and equally huge contribution to ensuring Ukraine security,” he added.  

6:00 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

US Secretary of State Blinken: Russia's "plan all along has been to invade Ukraine" 

From CNN's Michael Conte and Jennifer Hansler

(Carolyn Kaster/Pool/AP
(Carolyn Kaster/Pool/AP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks confirm that “his plan all along has been to invade Ukraine,” and that Russia’s issue with NATO has just been “an excuse to mask the fact that what this is about is President Putin’s view that Ukraine is not a sovereign country.”

“Now that we’ve heard it directly from President Putin himself, it confirms what we’ve been saying: that he did not send more than 150,000 troops to the Ukrainian border because of benign military exercises, or to respond to threatened aggression from Ukraine, or to stop a fabricated genocide by Ukraine or any other manufactured reason,” Blinken said at a joint news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Blinken said that Russia “hasn’t been serious to date” with its pursuit of diplomacy to resolve the crisis it created, but that despite the “renewed Russian invasion,” the US and its partners would still be open to diplomacy “to the extent that there is anything we can do to avert an even worse case scenario, an all-out assault on all of Ukraine.”

“President Putin’s deeply disturbing speech yesterday, and his statements today, made clear to the world how he views Ukraine: not as a sovereign nation with the right to territorial integrity and independence, but rather as a creation of Russia, and therefore subordinate to Russia,” said Blinken.

Blinken added, “this has never been about Ukraine and NATO per se,” and that Putin’s real goal is “reconstituting the Russian empire, or short of that, a sphere of influence, or short of that, the total neutrality of countries surrounding Russia.”

“This is the greatest threat to security in Europe since World War II,” Blinken added.

5:45 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

"Hit Russia's economy now and hit it hard," Ukrainian foreign minister says

From CNN’s Sugam Pokharel and Sharon Braithwaite

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba meets with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in Washington.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba meets with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in Washington. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged the world Tuesday to “hit” the Russian economy “hard” for its "new act of aggression against Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The world must respond with all its economic might to punish Russia for the crimes it has already committed, and ahead of the crimes it plans to commit," Kuleba said while speaking alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a joint press conference in Washington. "Hit Russia's economy now and hit it hard," he added.

While welcoming the latest US sanctions against Russia, Kuleba added that “Ukraine strongly believes the time for sanctions is now.”

“We are at a critical juncture for the security of Europe, as well as the international peace and security more broadly,” he continued.  

On the topic of Moscow recognizing the independence of two pro-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, Kuleba said his country “does not and will never recognize this absurdity.”

Kuleba argued that what Putin “recognized is his direct responsibility for the war against Ukraine and an unprovoked and unjustified war on another sovereign state in Europe, which Russia now intensifies.”

Kuleba went on to blame Putin for “attacking the world order" with his latest actions.

5:44 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Ukrainian foreign minster: Diplomacy is "Plan A" but if that fails, we will "fight for every inch of our land"

From CNN's From Jennifer Hansler

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday that his nation has two plans: diplomacy, and if that fails, fighting to defend themselves.

“Plan A is to utilize every tool of diplomacy to deter Russia and prevent further escalation,” Kuleba said at a news conference alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US State Department.

"And if that fails, plan B is to fight for every inch of our land, in every city and every village – to fight until we win, of course,” he said.

Kuleba said Ukraine has no plans to evacuate Mariupol and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.

5:29 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

US Secretary of State Blinken calls off meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he called off his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The leaders were set to meet Thursday.

"Last week, I agreed to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week, on Feb. 24, to discuss our country's respective concerns about European security. But only if Russia did not invade Ukraine. Now that we see the invasion is beginning and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy, it does not make sense to go forward with that meeting at this time. I consulted with our allies and partners. All agree. Today I sent Foreign Minister Lavrov a letter informing him of this," Blinken said during a joint news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Blinken’s announcement comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two pro-Moscow separatist regions in Ukraine as independent and announced he would deploy “peacekeeping” forces there.

US President Joe Biden and top US officials down said Tuesday that Putin’s moves marked the beginning of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine, and Biden announced a first tranche of sanctions in response.

Blinken said the US "remain committed to diplomacy if Russia is prepared to take demonstrable steps to provide the international community any degree of confidence that it's serious about de-escalating and finding a diplomatic solution."

The official noted that the US will proceed in coordination with its allies and partners "based on Russia's actions and the facts on the ground."

"But we will not allow Russia to claim the pretense of diplomacy at the same time it accelerates its march down the path of conflict and war," he continued.

More background: Now that their meeting is off, the cancellation signals that the Biden administration no longer believes that Russia is at all serious about pursuing diplomacy. 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also announced his meeting with Lavrov, that had been scheduled for Friday, was no longer occurring. 

CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Jeremy Herb contributed reporting to this post.

Watch U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken explain why he canceled his meeting with the Russian foreign minister: