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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11:35 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Satellite images and video show growing concentrations of Russian armor close to Ukraine's borders

From CNN’s Tim Lister, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Katie Polglase and Paul Murphy

There are further indications that Russia continues to concentrate forces along the border with Ukraine, despite assertions from Moscow more than a week ago that many units would be returning to their permanent bases after exercises.

Social media videos geolocated and analyzed by CNN over the past several days show a continuing buildup of armor and support vehicles in two regions: around the Russian city of Belgorod and the town of Valuyki. Both are within 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) of Ukraine's northeastern border, beyond which lies the major city of Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Dozens of stationary tanks and howitzers — along with other armor — could be observed in fields near Belgorod. Other videos showed a long column of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles parked beside a road between Belgorod and the Ukrainian border.

Some of the formations appear to be considerably larger than those observed last week. Some units have been moving at night, according to videos from the Belgorod area. 

Satellite images show a new field hospital that has been constructed at a military site near Belgorod, Russia.
Satellite images show a new field hospital that has been constructed at a military site near Belgorod, Russia. (Maxar Technologies)

In addition, fresh satellite images show that just west of Belgorod, a new field hospital has been constructed at a military site. Southwest of the city, additional troops and equipment are seen in satellite images. 

Russian military ambulances and transports have also been identified in areas near the Ukrainian border, as seen in videos posted to social media that CNN has been able to authenticate and geolocate.

In one of the videos, the ambulances are seen stationed in a wooded area near a park in Shebekino, Russia, less than five miles from the Ukrainian border. 

Ambulances have also been seen on the move as part of convoys in the Kursk areas, within 50 miles of the border.

New satellite images from Maxar Technologies show that in recent days, additional troops, vehicles and logistics infrastructure have also been deployed to Belarus. At an airfield just southwest of Mazyr, in southern Belarus, dozens of tents and vehicles have appeared in recent days. A satellite image from Feb. 4 shows the area was completely vacant. That airfield is just under 40 kilometers (about 24 miles) from Ukraine's northern border.

Satellite imagery shows dozens of tents and vehicles that have appeared in recent days at an airfield southwest of Mazyr in southern Belarus.
Satellite imagery shows dozens of tents and vehicles that have appeared in recent days at an airfield southwest of Mazyr in southern Belarus. (Maxar Technologies)

Additionally, social media videos showed a substantial number of attack helicopters in southern Belarus near the city of Gomel. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

Between a week and 10 days ago, there was a flurry of announcements from Moscow, often accompanied by Russian Defense Ministry video that was sometimes contradictory, about units in the vicinity of Ukraine returning to base after exercises. But there have been no further announcements since.

11:25 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

European Council chief calls for emergency summit on Ukraine to be held Thursday

From CNN's James Frater in Lviv and Niamh Kennedy in London

European Council President Charles Michel has called an emergency summit on Ukraine to be held on Thursday in Brussels.

In a letter to EU member states viewed by CNN on Wednesday, Michel invited representatives to a “special European Council on Thursday 24 February.” The summit is set to be an in-person meeting and is expected to begin at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET). 

“I would like us to discuss: the latest developments, how we protect the rules-based international order, how we deal with Russia notably holding Russia accountable for its actions, how we will further support Ukraine and its people,” Michel told member states. 

Michel condemned the “aggressive actions” taken by Russia, which he stressed violate international law, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and “undermine the European security order.”

“It is important that we continue to be united and determined and jointly define our collective approach and actions,” Michel said. 

On Wednesday afternoon, the European Council announced that it had “adopted a package of measures” responding to Russia's decision to recognize separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine.

11:04 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Paris will light up city hall in blue and yellow in support of Ukraine

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Anaëlle Jonah in Paris

Paris' city hall will display the colors of the Ukrainian flag on Wednesday night to show solidarity with the country, the mayor's office said in a statement. 

“The city of Paris wishes to show its support for the Ukrainian people and democracy by illuminating the city hall with the colors of Ukraine tonight,” the statement read.

The display will happen at 6:45 p.m. local time (12:45 p.m. ET), it said, adding that the German capital of Berlin will also light up the Brandenburg Gate at the same time.

“[This action] marks the necessary solidarity and unity that Europe must show in this conflict, while war threatens our continent,” according to the statement.

10:46 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Ukraine's parliament says it is "dealing with a cyberattack" on its website

From CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London and Tim Lister in Kyiv

Ukraine’s parliament is currently “dealing with a cyberattack” on its website, a member of its parliamentary press team confirmed to CNN Wednesday. 

Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov also said in his Telegram channel Wednesday that another mass distributed denial of service attack began at about 4 p.m. local time.

According to Fedorov, the DDoS attack was reported by a number of banks, and there have been problems with access to government websites. This is due to the switching of traffic to another provider to minimize the damage from the attack. 

Internet monitor NetBlocks tweeted that Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Security Service and Cabinet office websites have been “impacted by network disruptions.”

“The incident appears consistent with recent DDoS attacks,” NetBlocks added. 

More background: On Feb. 16, a high-volume cyberattack that temporarily blocked access to the websites of Ukrainian defense agencies and banks was "the largest [such attack] in the history of Ukraine," according to a government minister.

11:03 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Here's a look at the area in eastern Ukraine where the Latvian PM says Russia is moving troops

Russian troops have moved into the eastern region of Ukraine that Russia has now recognized as "independent," according to the Prime Minister of NATO member Latvia and sources familiar with the latest US intelligence assessments.

Read more about why the Donbas region is at the heart of the crisis.

Take a look at this map of the area:

10:47 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Russian troops moving some forces and tanks into eastern Ukraine, Latvian prime minister says

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis and Jim Sciutto

Russian troops have moved into the eastern region of Ukraine that Russia has now recognized as “independent,” according the prime minister of NATO member Latvia and sources familiar with US intelligence. 

“According to the information at my disposal, Putin is moving additional forces and tanks into the occupied Donbas territories,” Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Wednesday. “By any definition that’s a crossing of a sovereign territory into a neighboring country.”

Pressed specifically on whether he was referring to the entry of additional Russian troops since Moscow recognized the two separatist regions earlier this week, Kariņš replied: “Yes, according to the information at my disposal, this is exactly what we’re seeing.”

Two other sources familiar with US intelligence confirmed to CNN that additional Russian troops have in fact crossed the border into the Donbas region since Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two regions and issued an order deploying “peacekeepers” into the Donbas on Tuesday.

Russia has deployed one to two so-called battalion tactical groups, Russia’s main combat formation, each of which comprise an average of about 800 troops, according to a senior US official familiar with the latest intelligence.

CNN has not independently verified the presence of additional Russian troops in the Donbas. 

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday described events now underway in Ukraine as "the beginning of a Russian invasion,” but senior administration officials have since declined to confirm whether additional Russian troops had entered into the Donbas — where unmarked Russian forces have propping up separatist fighters since 2014. 

10:37 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Putin expresses "disappointment" with US and NATO reaction during phone call with Turkish president

From Isil Sariyuce, Celine Alkhaldi and Anna Chernova

On a phone call with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his “disappointment” in the reaction by the United States and NATO.

“Putin expressed his disappointment with the reaction of the United States and NATO, which amounted to an attempt to ignore legitimate Russian concerns and demands,” a statement by the Russian Presidency said.

Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s stance on rejecting the steps taken by Putin against Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Turkish presidency said.

Putin discussed “the theme of the development of long-term legal security guarantees for the Russian Federation” and “emphasized the objective necessity of the decision taken in the face of the aggression of the Ukrainian authorities in Donbas and their categorical refusal to comply with the Minsk agreements,” according to the Russian Presidency readout of the phone call.

The Turkish presidential statement said that Erdogan told Putin that “a military conflict will not benefit anyone” and that it will only make things more complex, adding that ”it is important to reach a conclusion on the basis of the Minsk Agreements.”

On Tuesday, Erdogan denounced Putin’s decision to recognize breakaway eastern Ukrainian territories, calling it “unacceptable.”

10:54 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

The White House is expected to allow toughest sanctions on controversial Russian gas pipeline

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Phil Mattingly and Kevin Liptak

The receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Lubmin, Germany, on February 2.
The receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Lubmin, Germany, on February 2. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is expected to announce on Wednesday that it will allow sanctions to move forward on the company in charge of building Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, after blocking such sanctions last year using a national security waiver. 

The move, described by three US officials, is part of a series of penalties the US and its allies have imposed on Russia this week in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of separatist territories in eastern Ukraine as independent. 

The administration decided to move forward with rescinding the national security waiver after Germany on Tuesday announced that it was halting the certification of the pipeline, the official said. Sanctioning Nord Stream 2’s parent company, Nord Stream 2 AG—a registered Swiss firm whose parent company is the Russian gas giant Gazprom—is effectively a death knell to the project, the official added. 

The move marks a significant shift in the administration’s policy toward Nord Stream 2, which had previously been to sanction some of the smaller entities involved in the project— including some Russian companies and ships that have been helping in the construction—but to hold off on sanctioning Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, Matthias Warnig.

US President Joe Biden and the State Department’s top energy official Amos Hochstein, who has been in charge of the diplomacy surrounding Nord Stream, had long been opposed to the project. But the concern was that imposing the harshest penalties on it would crater the US’ relationship with Germany, which insisted the pipeline was just a commercial project.

But now that Germany — after intensive diplomacy with the US — has agreed to halt the pipeline’s certification indefinitely, the US feels freer to allow the congressionally-mandated sanctions to move forward. Essentially, the administration wanted Germany to decide on its own to halt the pipeline before moving forward with more punishing sanctions on the project, the official explained.

The move is likely to be met with bipartisan support — Democratic and Republican lawmakers have long seen the pipeline as a potential threat to Europe because Russia has used its control over energy supplies to pressure countries in Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, by shutting off those supplies, even in winter months. 

Concern in Congress about the pipeline has been acute enough that lawmakers passed legislation with significant bipartisan majorities in 2019, then expanded it in 2020, requiring sanctions against Nord Stream 2.

The administration, last year, waived the toughest sanctions, on Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, on national security grounds, prompting Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to hold up dozens of Biden’s nominees to top national security and ambassador posts. 

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

Read more about Nord Stream 2 and why it matters.

10:52 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

French foreign minister warns about more European sanctions on Russia

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian gives a joint press conference with his German counterpart following a meeting on February 23, 2022 at the Foreign Office in Berlin.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian gives a joint press conference with his German counterpart following a meeting on February 23, 2022 at the Foreign Office in Berlin. (Kay Nietfeld/AFP/Getty Images)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned of additional European sanctions on Russia, but noted that the European Union is still hopeful there can be further dialogue toward a “peaceful ending” to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. 

“The first packet of sanction are serious; they will hurt,” Le Drian said. “There will be other packets.”

The foreign minister’s remarks echo that of France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who warned Wednesday that European leaders have “infinitely more penalizing” sanctions at their disposal to impose on Russia in an interview with CNN affiliate BFMTV. 

The European Union on Tuesday said it would sanction all 351 lawmakers of the Russian lower house, the Duma, who voted in favor of recognizing the independence of the separatist-controlled Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.

Addressing reporters in Berlin on Wednesday, Le Drian warned that “anything is possible, even the worst,” but stressed that there is still time for negotiations. 

“There’s a space of discussion that will continue to be open for the peaceful ending the Ukrainian crisis,” the French foreign minister said. 

Speaking alongside Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said European leaders and partners “want to avert war” but will take a hardline approach to Russia if needed. 

“We do not want a war in Europe, and it is on Russia to take back these steps,” Baerbock said. 

“We kept making clear that we will take all hard measures if necessary,” she added.