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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3:33 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

EU leader promises "harshest ever sanctions" against Russia in response to "barbaric attack"

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris and Amy Cassidy

European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to “weaken Russia's economic base and its capacity to modernize” following the “barbaric attack” by Moscow against Ukraine.

“We will freeze Russian assets in the European Union and stop the access of Russian banks to European financial markets,” Von der Leyen told reporters on Thursday.

“We condemn this barbaric attack and the cynical arguments that are being used to justify it.”

"Harshest" sanctions: Von der Leyen said she will present “massive and strategic” sanctions against Russia for approval later today.

“These sanctions are designed to take a heavy toll on the Kremlin's interests and their ability to finance war. And we know that millions of Russians do not want war,” she said.

“We will not allow President [Vladimir] Putin to replace the rule of law, by the rule of force, and ruthlessness,” she said, "Ukraine will prevail."

Speaking alongside Von der Leyen, EU High Representative Josep Borrell said punitive measures from the 27-member bloc against Russia would be “the harshest packet of sanctions that has ever been implemented.”

3:08 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Leader of civil liberties organization: Russia's attack could cause a "refugee crisis"

Oleksandra Matviichuk, chair of the Center for Civil Liberties in Kyiv, told CNN on Thursday she fears the Russian attack on Ukraine will cause a "refugee crisis."

"I am in Kyiv. And a lot of people stay in Kyiv and will fight for our country and for our city, and for our dignity," she said. "But people with children, people without parents, people who are scared (will) try to leave (the) city."

She added that she fears Russia's attack will also target journalists, civil activists, human rights defenders, and volunteers "who are ... resistant to the occupation."

When asked what could possibly prompt Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back, Matviichuk responded, "Now, it all depends onto immediate reaction of the West."

"We, as Ukrainians, will win," she said. "I don't know how my personal story will end but I have no doubt Ukraine will stand. But we need time, and (the) West can provide this time, with their immediate reaction."
2:56 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Subway stations become improvised bunkers in Kyiv, as people leave the Ukrainian capital

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio in Moscow

People take shelter in the Vokzalna metro station of Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24.
People take shelter in the Vokzalna metro station of Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24. (Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, subway stations have become improvised bunkers. Witnesses in the city told CNN the stations are full of people carrying supplies, organized in groups.

The stations are full -- but not the trains themselves, which are still running smoothly.

Ukrainians flee Kyiv: Photos began emerging Thursday morning of heavy traffic in the city, with long lines of cars heading out of Kyiv.

"While we hear those (air raid) sirens, you can imagine how panicked the people of this city are being shaken out of their beds at these thundering explosions that have been taking place all around us," said CNN's Matthew Chance in Kyiv earlier today.

"All that traffic is heading in one direction ... driving as fast as they can to the west towards the safer areas, if you'd like, of the country, perhaps towards Poland, which is three or four or five hours drive from from here. You can see it's almost a constant stream of traffic the residents of this country moving out towards the west, the opposite direction of of Russia."
2:55 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Poland and Baltic countries trigger consultations under NATO article 4

From CNN’s Brad Lendon in Seoul, South Korea and Vasco Cotovio in Moscow

NATO member states Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have triggered NATO Article Four to launch consultations within the alliance over their security concerns. 

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represented a “threat to the whole of Europe,” the Estonian government said in a statement on Thursday. 

"Russia's widespread aggression is a threat to the entire world and to all NATO countries, and NATO consultations on strengthening the security of the Allies must be initiated to implement additional measures for ensuring the defense of NATO Allies,” Kallas said. “The most effective response to Russia's aggression is unity.”

Some context: Under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Agreement, the Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the allies is threatened.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO. However, Russia has demanded that NATO commits to never admitting Ukraine to the alliance, something NATO members have rejected, citing the alliance's "open door" policy.

2:48 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

People urged to take cover in Ukrainian city of Lviv

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Atlanta and journalist Sofiya Harbuziuk in Lviv, Ukraine

Residents of Lviv in western Ukraine were urged not to panic by local authorities on Thursday following Russia’s attack on the country, according to local reports.

Authorities in the city said residents should turn off their lights and take cover, a local state-run TV report said. They should also hold on to their important documents, the report added.

A CNN team on the ground heard the sound of sirens multiple times on Thursday. CNN reporters also saw residents in the outskirts of Lviv lining up outside banks to withdraw cash.

Some diplomats previously relocated to Lviv, which is located about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the border with Poland, over the past couple of weeks as fears grew that a Russian attack on Ukraine would include the capital, Kyiv.

2:52 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Flight tracker shows mostly empty airspace above Ukraine and western Russia

(Flightradar24)
(Flightradar24)

Imagery from flight tracking service Flightradar24 shows mostly empty airspace above Ukraine and western Russia, with planes in the area steering clear of the border regions.

Early on Thursday, Ukraine's aviation authorities issued a notice restricting the country's airspace, covering the regions around Kyiv, Dnipro, Lviv, Odessa and Simferopol.

European aviation regulators also warned that any civilian aircraft near the Ukrainian border could face a "high risk" of being targeted.

3:02 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Japan's Prime Minister says Russia's invasion "shakes foundations of international order"

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo 

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday condemned Russia's invasion of eastern Ukraine, saying it "shakes the foundations of the international order."

"We strongly criticize Russia's actions and will cooperate with the United States and the international community to respond swiftly," Kishida told reporters at a news conference.

Kishida added that Tokyo would continue to work with relevant ministries to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals in Ukraine.

When asked about further sanctions against Moscow, Kishida told reporters he would consider future measures after communicating with other G7 nations and the international community.

Some context: Kishida on Wednesday said Japan will impose sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

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. He 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.

2:31 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Belarus' Lukashenko convenes a meeting with military, state media says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will convene a meeting with his military, state-run news agency Belta reported on Thursday.

Belarus and Russia have close military ties, and Russian troops recently deployed to Belarus for extensive military drills. 

CNN has witnessed, through a livestream video, troops atop a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus.

Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke earlier Thursday morning about the ongoing situation in Ukraine, Belta reported.

2:30 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Ukraine Defense Ministry: "Russian troops are suffering losses"

From CNN’s Mick Krever in Kharkiv and Tim Lister in Kyiv.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said Thursday its forces are countering the Russian offensive “with dignity” and inflicting losses on Moscow’s troops.

“National Defence Forces, using the right for self-defence according to the article 51 of the United Nations Charter are countering with dignity the enemy's attempts to break through the state border,” the Ministry said in a statement shared on Whatsapp. “Situation is controlled. The Russian troops are suffering losses.”

The Ministry also said there had been “no losses among the defenders of Ukraine.”

In an earlier statement, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it had neutralized Ukrainian air defenses.

CNN has been unable to independently verify either of these claims.