Ukrainian Interior Ministry says Russian helicopter shot down in Kyiv region, and CNN has geolocated footage
From CNN’s Katie Polglase, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Anastasia Graham-Yooll
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry confirmed Thursday that one Russian helicopter and three other unknown helicopters were downed in the Kyiv region.
CNN has verified two social media videos showing multiple explosions and helicopters flying close to the ground in the city of Hostomel, just 25 kilometers (or about 15 miles) from Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.
In the videos, several bangs and sparks can be seen in the residential area while helicopters fly close to the camera, with black smoke surrounding the sky.
CNN geolocated both pieces of footage to Hostomel. The videos appear to show the fighting the Ukrainian government has described in which it said one Russian helicopter was shot down, along with three other unknown helicopters.
It is unclear if the other three helicopters are Russian or Ukrainian. CNN is working to clarify.
9:12 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
UN refugee agency steps up operations in Ukraine and neighboring countries
From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez
The United Nations refugee agency is stepping up operations and capacity in Ukraine and neighboring countries as people start to flee Ukraine, High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement Thursday.
“We are gravely concerned about the fast-deteriorating situation and ongoing military action in Ukraine,” Grandi said.
“UNHCR is also working with governments in neighboring countries, calling on them to keep borders open to those seeking safety and protection. We stand ready to support efforts by all to respond to any situation of forced displacement,” he added.
9:42 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
On the ground: Families in Kharkiv, Ukraine, crowd into subway station that has become impromptu bomb shelter
From CNN's Adrienne Vogt
Families, including young children and pets, crowded into a subway station that is serving as a bomb shelter in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
"It's just absolutely surreal. Yesterday, this would have been full of commuters making their way back and forth to work. Today, it has become an impromptu bomb shelter," CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward reported.
Ward said she and her team were outside and then heard a "series of thuds."
"People start[ed] to pour in here ... These people are frightened. They're confused. They are desperately uncertain about what they're supposed to do, how long they can take shelter here, where they go from here," she said.
One woman told Ward she grabbed necessary items with her.
"Just documents and some money, and mostly we can't take cash because I'm not sure that I can pay by card now. And I'm not sure I can get anywhere from Kharkiv for now," she said.
She has a car, but she said she is not sure "be safe in Ukraine in any city."
Earlier, CNN's Fred Pleitgen witnessed rockets that appeared to be launched from the Belgorod region in Russia over the border near Kharkiv, as well as military vehicles headed toward the road leading to the city.
Watch CNN's reporting on the ground at the subway station:
8:51 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
Biden convened a national security council meeting this morning on Ukraine
From CNN's Betsy Klein
US President Joe Biden convened a meeting of the National Security Council Thursday morning in the Situation Room to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine, a White House official said.
As CNN reported, a number of top national security officials arrived at the White House earlier this morning. CNN observed national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, CIA director Bill Burns, and Vice President Kamala Harris arriving at the West Wing in the 7 a.m. ET hour.
Set to address the nation at 12 p.m. ET, Biden is expected to unveil new measures that could cut off Russia from advanced technology, announce new restrictions on large financial institutions and slap sanctions on additional members of the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post.
9:13 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
Nigerian students say they feel abandoned in Ukraine
From CNN's Stephanie Busari in Lagos, Nigeria
While other governments are making plans to evacuate their citizens from Ukraine, Nigerian students tell CNN they have been essentially told: “You’re on your own.”
Anjola-Oluwa Ero-Phillips said he and around 70 other Nigerian students are stranded with no way to legally leave Lviv in the west of the country, close to the border with Poland.
Abike Dabiri of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission told CNN that the country's foreign ministry will announce evacuation plans, but gave no timeline.
Dabiri also sent updated travel advice from the Nigerian foreign ministry asking Nigerian students in Ukraine to “remain calm but be very vigilant and be responsible for their personal security and safety.”
Lviv is around 300 miles from Ukraine capital Kyiv where explosions were heard in the early hours of Thursday after Russian forces entered the country.
“There have not been explosions here but earlier in the day we heard the siren tests. Flights are cancelled and it’s hard to get any taxis or Uber,” medical student Ero-Phillips said of the situation in Lviv.
“Everybody is at the ATM trying to withdraw cash but banks are not opening. Money is running out at the ATM and you can’t do app transactions anymore,” he added.
"Based on what I have heard from the Indian citizens, their government is trying to get free transit for them to the Polish border,” Ero-Phillips said.
In an advisory Thursday, the Indian Embassy in Kyiv said arrangements were being put in place to evacuate Indian nationals and students.
“No one has any idea what to do. We have been reaching out to the Nigerian embassy since last month,” said Ero-Phillips, who is president of the Lviv arm of the Association of Nigerian students in Ukraine.
8:36 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
Lviv residents sought shelter underground early Thursday morning, deputy mayor says
From CNN's Aditi Sangal
As parts of Ukraine come under Russian offense, tensions have traveled to the other side of the country to Lviv, located in western Ukraine, deputy Mayor Andriy Moskalenko told CNN.
"In Lviv, we had this morning sirens. And so it was a sign for people to move to underground places. It was a potential threat," he said, adding that there were no explosions.
CNN reported residents lined out of banks and ATMs to withdraw money and at gas stations out of concern. The city has also instructed education to move online so children and university students can stay at home, the deputy mayor told CNN.
Otherwise, services and institutions are working as usual, he said.
"Right now, the city works as usual. We have water supply, heat supply, we have transport and banks and other institutions at work. We, together with state security service, the administration, with police, manage our work. So we have come to headquarters to provide services for our residents," Moskalenko told CNN.
8:36 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
EU says it will make it as "difficult as possible" for the Kremlin to pursue aggressive actions in Ukraine
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy
The European Union will "make it as difficult as possible" for the Kremlin to pursue its "aggressive actions" in Ukraine, the chief of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen warned.
Speaking in a joint press conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and European Council chief Charles Michel in Brussels, von der Leyen said the EU will "hold Russia accountable for this outrageous violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The EU chief said she had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which he asked her for "whatever the different stakeholders can do for help."
The EU is set to unveil a further package of "massive" and "targeted" sanctions later Thursday, she said.
The package will include "financial sanctions that harshly limit Russia's access to the capital markets" and "suppress Russia's economic growth," she explained.
The second pillar of this package will limit Russia's access to "crucial technology," von der Leyen continued, in a bid to "cut off Russia's industry from the technologies desperately needed today to build a future."
"Our measures will weaken Russia's technological position in key areas, actually, from which the elite makes most of their money. And this ranges from high tech components to cutting edge software. This will also seriously degrade the Russian economy in all areas in the future," she said.
"Let me be very clear. It is President Putin who will have to explain this to his citizens. I know that the Russian people do not want this war," von der Leyen said.
The Kremlin is aware that European unity "is our best strength," she said, adding that this is "why they have tried their best to divide us."
"They have achieved the exact opposite. We are more united and more determined than ever," she concluded.
8:30 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
"The West must act today," says Ukrainian presidential adviser
From CNN’s Matthew Chance in Kyiv
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told CNN that a "full-fledged large-scale war has begun in Europe."
Russia is attacking not just Ukraine, but all the rules of normal life in the modern world. What will be left of the security system on the continent? Zero," Podolyak said.
Podolyak said that Russian forces went on the offensive against the country from the north, east and south. "Our army repulses attacks, the enemy suffers significant losses," he added.
"The main thing now is to focus as much as possible on defending the country and preserving people's normal lives," Podolyak said.
"But Ukraine needs more support from the world and is very specific -- military-technical and financial support, tough sanctions against Russia. The West must act today.”
8:03 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
Belarus' Lukashenko to discuss deployment of missile systems with Putin
From CNN's Anna Chernova and Vasco Cotovio in Moscow
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says he expects to discuss the possible deployment of Iskander and S-400 defense systems to Belarus with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the coming days.
“[Thursday or Friday] we will talk with the President of Russia about how to strengthen ourselves here in the western direction,” Lukashenko told state news agency Belta Thursday.
“Today we consulted with the military, and we see that it would be desirable to put Iskanders [missile systems] there and place a battalion or two with S-400s somewhere so that we can actually monitor the situation all the way to Berlin,” Lukashenko said.
“Now the most powerful deterrent would be equipment: Iskanders and S-400 Triumphs. We can manage without them, but it would be nice. Then they would hardly go here,” Lukashenko added.
Belarus and Russia have close military ties, and Russian troops recently deployed to Belarus for extensive military drills. On Thursday, CNN witnessed -- through a livestream video -- troops atop a column of military vehicles entering Ukraine from a border crossing with Belarus.