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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11:50 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Australia imposes sanctions against Russia, warns a "full-scale invasion" could happen within 24 hours

From CNN's Paul Devitt in Sydney and Sophie Jeong

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a news conference in Sydney on Wednesday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a news conference in Sydney on Wednesday. (Bianca De Marchi/Pool/Reuters)

Australia is the latest country to announce sanctions against Russia, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiling new measures Wednesday in response to the "aggression by Russia against Ukraine."

Morrison said at a news conference that Australia will first enact travel bans and targeted financial sanctions on eight members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation — a group of top state officials and defense heads.

Canberra will also impose “strong” economic sanctions against the separatist-held pro-Moscow regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized as independent on Monday. The sanctions target transport, energy, telecommunications, oil, gas and mineral reserves, Morrison said.

He added that he will extend existing sanctions on Russian-held Crimea and Sevastopol to include Luhansk and Donetsk.

Australia will also move to sanction several Russian banks.

“The invasion of Ukraine has effectively already begun,” Morrison said. “Russia is at peak readiness to now complete a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and that is likely to occur within the next 24 hours.”

Morrison added that Australia always stands up to “bullies,” and that he will speak to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Wednesday.

11:18 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Russian envoy to US claims sanctions will hurt global markets and "ordinary Americans"

From CNN's Darya Tarasova in Moscow and Samantha Beech in Atlanta

Moscow's ambassador to the United States has hit back at the imposition of sanctions on Russia by President Joe Biden, suggesting the move would hurt global financial and energy markets as well as ordinary citizens.

“I don’t remember a single day when our country lived without any restrictions from the Western world. We learned how to work in such conditions. And not only survive, but also develop our state," said Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, according to a post on the Russian Embassy Facebook page early Wednesday.

“There is no doubt that the sanctions imposed against us will hurt the global financial and energy markets," he added. "The United States will not be left out, where ordinary citizens will feel the full consequences of rising prices.”

“With regard to Moscow, new US sanctions will not solve anything, Russia has learned to work and develop under restrictions.”

Context on the sanctions: Biden laid out what he called a "first tranche" of US sanctions against Russia for its actions in eastern Ukraine, including on two large financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their family members. He said the sanctions would effectively "cut off Russia's government from Western finance."

Biden pledged that his administration is using "every tool at our disposal" to limit the effect on gas prices in the US, acknowledging that Americans will likely see rising prices at the pump in the coming months.

Read more about the US sanctions here.

10:20 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Japan to impose sanctions against Russia

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announces Japan's decision to impose sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, at his residence in Tokyo, Japan, February 23.
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announces Japan's decision to impose sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, at his residence in Tokyo, Japan, February 23. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Japan will impose sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday.

Kishida said Japan will suspend the issuance of visas and freeze the assets of people involved in recognizing the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, the two separatist-held pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine.

Kishida did not specify names or how the sanctions would be carried out.

He also said Japan will ban imports and exports to and from Donetsk and Luhansk, and prohibit the issuance and circulation of Russian bonds in Japan. Kishida added that the details of the sanctions will be discussed further.  

Kishida said Russia’s actions had “clearly” violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law and urged Russia to resolve the situation through a diplomatic process.

8:07 p.m. ET, February 22, 2022

FBI official warns of potential ransomware attacks in wake of US sanctions on Russia  

From CNN's Sean Lyngaas

Minutes after US President Joe Biden announced new sanctions on Russian banks and elites Tuesday, a senior FBI cyber official asked US businesses and local governments to be mindful of the potential for ransomware attacks as the crisis over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine deepens. 

Russia is a “permissive operating environment” for cybercriminals, one that “is not going to get any smaller” as Russia’s confrontation with the West over Ukraine continues and further sanctions are announced, the FBI’s David Ring said on a phone briefing with private executives and state and local officials, according to two people who were on the call.  

Ring asked state and local officials and business executives to consider how ransomware attacks could disrupt the provision of critical services, the people on the call said. 

US officials continue to say there are “no specific, credible” threats to the US homeland tied to tensions with Russia over Ukraine, but they are preaching vigilance.

The willingness of Russian-speaking cybercriminals to disrupt US critical infrastructure has been a US concern for years, but came to a head last year when a ransomware attack forced major fuel transporter Colonial Pipeline to shut down for days.  

The phone call was one of a series of recurring briefings that FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials have had for US companies and local governments in the last two months in light of US tensions with Russia over Ukraine. It was scheduled before it was clear that Biden was addressing Russia’s latest moves in Ukraine on Tuesday.

The US President announced the “first tranche” of sanctions against Russian entities for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize two breakaway regions in Ukraine and send troops there.                   

The US could also see “a possible increase in cyber threat activity” from Russian state-backed hackers as a result of those sanctions, Ring said, according to the people on the call. 

“DHS has been engaging in an outreach campaign to ensure that public and private sector partners are aware of evolving cybersecurity risks and taking steps to increase their cybersecurity preparedness,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement.

CNN has requested comment from the FBI. 

The extortion of Colonial Pipeline underscored for Biden administration officials the economic and national security threat posed by ransomware. The incident triggered long lines at gas stations in multiple US states and prompted Biden to call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to rein in cybercriminals operating from Russian soil. 

More background: While ransomware attacks on US organizations by Russian-speaking hackers have continued, Russian authorities have dangled the prospect of cracking down on some groups in recent months, as the standoff of Ukraine brewed.  

The US believes Russia has detained the person responsible for the Colonial Pipeline hack, but any cooperation between the two governments on cybercrime could be elusive if relations further deteriorate over Ukraine, according to some analysts. 

After the cyberattacks on Ukrainian government and banking websites last week that the Biden administration blamed on Russia’s military intelligence directorate, US officials continue to see Russian cyber operations as likely playing a role in any further military invasion.  

In the event of a larger conflict between Russia and Ukraine, US officials are concerned that transportation networks and broadcast media in Ukraine could be shut down by kinetic or cyberattacks, Matthew Hackner, an official in DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, said on Tuesday’s phone briefing, according to people on the call.

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.