Russia attacks Ukraine

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Rob Picheta, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 9:58 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
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7:36 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Macron thought Putin was "stiffer and more "isolated" during recent Moscow meeting

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with French President Emmanuel Macron (R) in Moscow on February 7.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with French President Emmanuel Macron (R) in Moscow on February 7. (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron recently offered rare insight into the demeanor of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who he said had “changed” in the two years since the leaders previously met in person, according to an Elysée source. 

Addressing journalists in Paris Monday following a televised national address by the Russian President, the source recounted what Macron had noticed during the leaders’ February 7 meeting in Moscow. 

Macron had told reporters on the plane back from the trip that he found Putin to be “stiffer and more isolated” when they met face to face in the Russian capital, the source said, adding that the assessment aligned with the impression Putin gave in the rambling speech announcing the deployment of so-called “peacekeeping” troops into eastern Ukraine.  

“On the plane, President Macron had explained to the journalists present that the Putin he had met in the Kremlin was no longer the same as the one he had seen in December 2019 -- their last meeting.

"That Macron had found at the Kremlin a man who was at the same time stiffer, more isolated and who, basically, had gone into a sort of drift that was both ideological and security-minded and who, in a certain way, was borne out today [in the speech],” the source said.

Macron has emerged as Europe's key broker in diplomatic efforts to avert war in Ukraine in recent weeks. The pair spent more than five hours locked in head-to-head talks during their meeting in Moscow this month.

Macron said at the time that he and Putin were able to find "points of convergence" over the crisis and that it was "up to us to agree, jointly, concrete and specific measures to stabilize the situation and to de-escalate tensions."

1:30 p.m. ET, February 23, 2022

What you need to know about the Ukraine-Russia crisis

Western leaders are warning that Russia has put in motion its plan to launch a full invasion of Ukraine, while announcing the first set of sanctions on Moscow.

US President Joe Biden described events now underway in Ukraine as "the beginning of a Russian invasion," as he unveiled tough new measures to punish Moscow on Tuesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Russia is "bent" on a "full scale invasion" of Ukraine, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said “Putin has built up enough troops along the Ukrainian borders to really be able to fully invade the country.”

Here's what you need to know.

What did Russia do? On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Donetsk and Luhansk — two separatist-held pro-Moscow regions of eastern Ukraine — in what the Kremlin called a "peacekeeping" mission. The move came just hours after he signed decrees recognizing the independence of the regions.

Multiple US and Western officials cautioned this could serve as the opening salvo of a larger military operation targeting Ukraine. More than 150,000 Russian troops now encircle Ukraine on three sides, according to estimates from US and Ukrainian intelligence officials.

How has Ukraine responded? Ukraine’s response to a potential attack “will be instant,” Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council said Wednesday.

A State of Emergency is set to be introduced across all parts of Ukraine under government control, which will last for at least 30 days.

But the government has not closed the door to a possible solution. On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is still pursuing diplomacy as a way out of the crisis; reservists would be called up for military training, he said, but there will be no general mobilization of armed forces.

"We desire peace and calm but if we are quiet today then tomorrow we will disappear," he said in an address to the nation.

How has the world reacted? Russia's actions have been strongly condemned by many nations, with Western leaders imposing new sanctions on Tuesday and cutting off a key pipeline with Russia.

Biden announced the United States will sanction Russia's financial institutions and oligarchs. The European Union also sanctioned 351 Russian lawmakers who voted to recognize the breakaway regions, and the United Kingdom announced sanctions against five Russian banks and three Russian oligarchs.

Also on Tuesday, Germany said it halted certifying an $11 billion 750-mile pipeline that connects Russia directly to Germany. The Nord Stream 2 project was completed in September but has not yet received the final green light from German regulators. Without that, natural gas cannot flow through the Baltic Sea pipeline from Russia to Germany.

On Wednesday, Japan and Australia joined the list of countries to impose sanctions on Russia, Donetsk and Luhansk.

But China, which for years has maintained a robust friendship with Russia, criticized Western sanctions. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Wednesday they are "never a fundamental and effective way to solve problems."

7:11 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

State of emergency to be introduced across Ukraine

Secretary of the National security and defence council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov in his office, in Kiev, Ukraine on December 24.
Secretary of the National security and defence council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov in his office, in Kiev, Ukraine on December 24. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

A State of Emergency is to be introduced across all parts of Ukraine under government control, the country's National Security and Defense Council announced Wednesday.

The measure is expected to be approved by the Ukrainian Parliament within 48 hours and would last for 30 days, with the possibility of being extended for an additional 30 days. 

“Across the territory of our country, apart from Donetsk and Luhansk, a State of Emergency will be introduced,” Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council said Wednesday.  

“The main aim of the Russian Federation is to destabilize Ukraine from inside and to achieve its objective. To prevent this from happening, we decided today and made this decision today,” he added. 

Speaking during a press briefing in Kyiv, Danilov said the State of Emergency would include “strengthening public order and security at critical infrastructure facilities” and tightening inspections on certain transportation movements. 

“Depending on the local circumstances, there may be stronger or milder measures to ensure the security of our country,” he added. “These are all preventative measures, in order to preserve peace and calm in the country and for the economy to continue to work.”

6:40 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Soccer authorities "monitoring" Ukraine situation ahead of St. Petersburg Champions League final

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok and Sammy Mngqosini in London

The Gazprom Arena prior to the UEFA Champions League group G match between Zenit St. Petersburg and Olympique Lyon on November 27, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Gazprom Arena prior to the UEFA Champions League group G match between Zenit St. Petersburg and Olympique Lyon on November 27, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Johannes Simon/UEFA/Getty Images)

Soccer governing bodies UEFA and FIFA say they are “monitoring the situation” as the escalating Russia-Ukraine crisis threatens to impact several key European and international matches that due to take place in both countries.

It comes after Western nations announced a tranche of sanctions against Moscow in a bid to deter further aggression after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of military forces into eastern Ukraine.

St. Petersburg is poised to stage the UEFA Champions League Final -- the biggest match in men’s European club football -- on Saturday, May 28.

The Krestovsky Stadium, which is sponsored by Russian state-owned company Gazprom, previously hosted matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2020. 

“With regard to the 2022 UEFA Champions League final in St. Petersburg, we would like to inform you that UEFA is constantly and closely monitoring the situation and any decision would be made in due course if necessary. UEFA has no further comments to make at present,” a UEFA spokesperson told CNN Tuesday.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Wednesday that English teams should boycott May’s final as a result of Russia’s actions.

“If I were on an English team, I would boycott it,” Truss told British radio station LBC.

“I would personally not want to be playing in a football match in St. Petersburg given what the Putin regime is doing,” added Truss.

On the international scene, Russia are scheduled to host Poland in a men’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier playoff semifinal on March 24. That game is due to be held at the VTB Arena in Moscow.

FIFA also told CNN it is "monitoring the situation."

6:50 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

China criticizes Western sanctions on Russia

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on developments in Ukraine and Russia, and announces sanctions against Russia, from the East Room of the White House February 22, in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on developments in Ukraine and Russia, and announces sanctions against Russia, from the East Room of the White House February 22, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

China has criticized Western sanctions on Russia and said it will not follow suit, calling the measures "never a fundamental and effective way to solve problems” and saying it "always opposes any illegal unilateral sanctions."

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the United States will sanction Russia's financial institutions and oligarchs after Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered troops into separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine. The United Kingdom, European Union, Canada, Australia and Japan also announced fresh sanctions on Russia.

When asked in the Foreign Ministry's daily briefing whether China would consider following suit, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded by telling the reporter, "You obviously lack a basic understanding of Chinese government policy."

"We believe that sanctions are never the fundamental and effective way to solve problems. China always opposes any illegal unilateral sanctions," Hua said, reiterating that the two parties should seek a resolution through dialogue and negotiation. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying attends a press conference in Beijing on February 23.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying attends a press conference in Beijing on February 23. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

In her response, Hua also posed questions of what has been gained by previous US imposed sanctions on Russia, asking reporters: "Have they solved the problem? Is the world better off because of US sanctions? Will Ukraine's problems be resolved automatically by the imposition of US sanctions against Russia? Will Europe's security be more secure as a result of US sanctions against Russia? I think we should try to solve the problem through dialogue and negotiation."

She noted that previous sanctions imposed by the US "have caused serious difficulties to the economy and people's livelihood of the countries concerned," adding that on Ukraine, the US should "not undermine the legitimate rights and interests" of China and "other parties."

Currently, the US maintains sanctions on Russia that were imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Other penalties have been imposed over issues including cyberattacks, election meddling, weapons proliferation and illicit trade with North Korea. 

The Russia-China relationship: China is navigating a complex position as it attempts to balance a robust friendship with Russia with its practiced foreign policy of staunchly defending state sovereignty.

On Feb. 14, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the embassy in Ukraine is “working normally” and continues to provide consular protection and assistance to Chinese citizens and enterprises in Ukraine.

5:41 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

UK foreign secretary: No "full" evidence Russia has sent troops to eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss pictured after an interview in Westminster, London, on February 23.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss pictured after an interview in Westminster, London, on February 23. (Tom Nicholson/Reuters)

The United Kingdom has not seen “full” evidence Russia has sent troops to eastern Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News on Wednesday.  

“We've heard from Putin himself that he is sending in troops,” she said. “We don't yet have the full evidence that that has taken place. What we are expecting, and this has been confirmed by the Americans as well as by the United Kingdom, is a full-scale invasion, including potentially of Kyiv.” 

Without providing evidence, both the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that Russian troops have entered the pro-Moscow breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

CNN has been unable to independently verify this. 

Truss added the UK and the international community is prepared to “go further” with economic sanctions should a “full-scale invasion” take place, which could be in any part of Ukraine, not just the capital city of Kyiv.

“We've been very clear that we're going to limit Russian access to British markets. We're going to stop the Russian government raising sovereign debt in the United Kingdom. And we're very united with our allies in the way that these sanctions packages are working,” she said. 

Some context: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing Luhansk and Donetsk as independent on Monday. The decrees said that Russian so-called peacekeeping forces would be deployed in the two separatist-held pro-Moscow regions of eastern Ukraine.

Separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk have long had substantial backing from the Kremlin, with US, NATO and Ukrainian officials saying that Moscow supplies them with advisory support and intelligence, and embeds its own officers in their ranks.

5:12 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Putin says Russia is open to dialogue, but its interests and security are "non-negotiable"

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in a video message released by the Kremlin on February 23.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in a video message released by the Kremlin on February 23. (Kremlin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a video message Wednesday that the country's interests were "non negotiable" — but he is open to dialogue for "the most difficult problems." 

"We see how difficult the international situation is developing, what dangers the current challenges pose, such as weakening of the arms control system or the military activity of the NATO bloc," Putin said in a clip released by the Kremlin for the national holiday, Defender of the Fatherland Day.

"At the same time, Russia's calls to build a system of equal and indivisible security that would reliably protect all countries remain unanswered." 

Russia was "always open for direct and honest dialogue, for finding diplomatic solutions to the most difficult problems," Putin said, adding: "But I repeat: Russia's interests and the security of our citizens are non-negotiable for us."

3:35 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Taiwan's President condemns Russia for undermining Ukraine's sovereignty

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen has condemned Russia for undermining Ukraine's sovereignty, presidential office spokesman Chang Tun-han said on Wednesday.

Tsai chaired a meeting to discuss the crisis in Ukraine on Wednesday morning, during which she said Taiwan must increase its surveillance on military activities in the Taiwan Strait to protect the self-ruled island's security.

"Taiwan and Ukraine are fundamentally different in geopolitics, geography and the importance to international supply chains," Tsai said, according to Chang.

Tsai said earlier this week that Taiwan could "empathize" with Ukraine's situation given its experience with "military threats and intimidation from China."

Mainland China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of the Chinese civil war more than 70 years ago, when the defeated Nationalists retreated to the island.

China's Communist Party seeks eventual "reunification" with the island it claims as its territory despite having never governed it — and has not ruled out doing so by force.

Read more.

4:30 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Analysis: China's leaders may be watching Ukraine with an eye on Taiwan

Analysis from CNN's Simone McCarthy

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, attends a press conference on February 23 in Beijing, China.
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, attends a press conference on February 23 in Beijing, China. (Yang Kejia/China News Service/Getty Images)

As the world's attention focuses on the escalating crisis between Russia and Ukraine, a spotlight has also been turned on an island halfway around the world — self-governing Taiwan.

On the surface, there may be parallels: both Taiwan and Ukraine are Western-friendly democracies whose status quo could be upended by powerful autocracies.

In Taiwan's case, China's Communist Party seeks eventual "reunification" with the island it claims as its territory despite having never governed it — and has not ruled out doing so by force. For Ukraine, that threat is unfolding: Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he considers Russians and Ukrainians as "one people," and it's yet unclear how far he'll go to realize that claim — on Monday he declared two breakaway, Moscow-backed territories in Ukraine as independent republics.

World leaders themselves have implied connections between the fates of Ukraine and Taiwan in recent weeks.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has said Taiwan could "empathize" with Ukraine's situation given its experience with "military threats and intimidation from China."

Concerns have been rising in recent years that a confident China under leader Xi Jinping may make a bold move to take control of Taiwan, and Beijing will likely be carefully monitoring the situation in Ukraine for signs of how Western powers respond — and just how severe those responses are.

The United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, Australia and Japan have all announced economic sanctions to punish Moscow following Putin's moves earlier this week.

But there are limits to the parallels, and to how much Beijing could glean from the spiraling crisis in Ukraine when it comes any future actions toward Taiwan.

"How the US responds to Ukraine is not going to be the same as Taiwan because the way the US has constructed its relationship with Taiwan over decades is different than its responsibilities to Ukraine, the European Union, or NATO," said Lev Nachman, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard University's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.
"Even though (Beijing) will still be watching closely to see how the world reacts to invasion and a potential redrawing of borders, which will likely factor into Beijing's own geopolitical calculus, it is highly unlikely that Beijing is going to drastically alter its strategy towards Taiwan over Ukraine," said Nachman, who focuses on Taiwan politics.

Editor's Note: A version of this post appeared in CNN's Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country's rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here and read more: