February 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Rob Picheta, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Ed Upright, Maureen Chowdhury and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 8:06 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
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4:47 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

US secretary of state says evidence suggests "Russia intends to encircle and threaten Kyiv"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference in Washington on February 22.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference in Washington on February 22. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Thursday that “all evidence suggests that Russia intends to encircle and threaten Kyiv, and we believe Moscow has developed plans to inflict widespread human rights abuses – and potentially worse – on the Ukrainian people.”

The top US diplomat did not elaborate on what “potentially worse” action Moscow could inflict on the people of Ukraine in his remarks to a special meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“Russia’s actions are an affront to democracy, to human rights, to human decency,” according to a transcript of Blinken’s remarks delivered virtually earlier in the day Thursday. “For months, Russia has engaged in the pretense of diplomacy while insisting that they had no intentions of invading Ukraine. All the while, the Kremlin has been preparing this cold-blooded attack, the scale of which has not been seen in Europe since the Second World War."

“The members of this organization and the entire international community now plainly see Russia’s complete abandonment and abdication of the commitments it made to the world – and we will never forget,” Blinken said.

Russia and Ukraine are both participating states in the OSCE.

4:36 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Analysis: Russia, in damage control mode, tries to justify the invasion as existential decision

Analysis from CNN's Jill Dougherty in Moscow

Russia is mounting a full-bore campaign to justify its invasion of Ukraine, especially among the country's wealthy elite, as Western nations move to punish the Kremlin for attacking its neighbor.

The widespread international outrage — and quick moves by Washington and Brussels to sanction Russia — have made it clear that Russia will, in the short term, be something of a pariah state. US President Joe Biden said Thursday that Washington will limit Russia's ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen, cutting Moscow out of large swathes of the global economy. Russian banks that together hold around $1 trillion in assets are also being targeted by US sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is now trying to convince his people that the cost was unavoidable.

Knowing such measures were likely coming, prompted Putin to address Russian business leaders hours before Biden's announcement.

The Russian leader said that business should expect "restrictions" on the Russian economy because of the invasion, which he justified as a "necessary measure."

"They didn’t leave us any chance to act otherwise. They created such risks in the sphere of security that it was impossible to react in a different way," Putin said.

The spokesperson for Russia's foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, went even further. She attempted to frame the Kremlin's invasion of its smaller neighbor as an attempt to prevent a world war.

"This is not a beginning of war. It prevents a global military confrontation," she said.

Both statements, on their surface, seem illogical. How could Ukraine, a country of 44 million people, pose an existential threat to one of the world's few nuclear powers?

But Putin believed that NATO and the West were using Ukraine, which he does not see as a legitimate state, to threaten Russia and topple his government.

If Putin hopes to mollify the concerns of Russia's elite, who will almost certainly feel the economic pinch of sanctions, he'll have to convince them he's right.

4:00 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Russia has launched "more than 160 missiles," US senior defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Russia has launched “in total more than 160 missiles for airstrikes,” a senior US defense official told reporters Thursday.  

Most of the missiles are “short-range ballistic missiles,” but the total airstrikes include a “mix of medium-range as well as cruise missiles,” the official said.

Right now, the official said the US is not seeing “a push deeper or further into the West.”

4:15 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

WHO director-general: I'm "gravely concerned" for the health of the Ukrainian people

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at an event in Geneva in October 2021.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at an event in Geneva in October 2021. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday expressed sadness and worry for Ukrainians amid the Russian invasion.

"I am heartbroken and gravely concerned for the health of the people in #Ukraine in the escalating crisis,” Tedros posted on Twitter.

"The health system must continue to function to deliver essential care to people for all health issues,” he added in the post.

“International humanitarian law calls for protection of health facilities, workers, patients, transport, and supplies. As part of WHO’s role to document attacks on health, we will continue to monitor and report such incidents,” Tedros said.

“I call for peace and sustained access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Ukraine. I’ve released a further $3.5 million from WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies to buy and deliver urgent medical supplies. This adds to supplies we prepositioned in health facilities,” the tweet concluded.

See his tweet:

4:01 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

It's 11 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's where things stand as the Russian invasion continues.

From CNN's Aditi Sangal and Maureen Chowdhury

The tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated after Russian forces invaded Ukraine from three sides, while explosions rang through a number of cities, including the capital Kyiv, in a broad attack that began before dawn on Thursday. The West condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for this invasion.

What happened overnight

CNN teams heard explosions in and near multiple Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, the second-largest city Kharkiv, Odessa, and distant firing from Zaporizhzhia. Images released by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office showed large explosions to the east of the capital Kyiv with huge columns of smoke rising into the air.

Ukrainian officials said more than 40 soldiers and as many as 10 civilians had been killed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began shortly before dawn.

Protests erupt in Russia

Russian riot police were urging protesters to leave Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow. CNN’s Nic Robertson and team on the ground have witnessed people being detained by police. Some are carrying signs with messages, including multiple signs saying “no to war.”  Russian authorities on Thursday warned citizens that participating in anti-war protests could lead to prosecution and criminal charges.

At least 1675 people have been detained today at anti-war protests all over Russia, with at least 919 of them in Moscow, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

Russian forces took control of a Ukrainian air base near Kyiv and the Chernobyl nuclear plant

Russian forces have seized control of the Chernobyl power plant in northern Ukraine, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, according to the agency that manages the area. Troops overran the plant on the first day of Russia's multi-pronged invasion of Ukraine, a spokesperson for the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management, Yevgeniya Kuznetsovа, told CNN.

Russian airborne troops have taken control of the Antonov Airport, which is about 25 miles away from the center of Kyiv, Ukraine, CNN's Matthew Chance reported Thursday. "The helicopter-borne troops were landed in the early hours of the morning to make and perform an air bridge to allow for more troops to come in," he reported.

US announces sanctions against Russia

US President Joe Biden said Thursday that the newly announced sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine will take some time to have their full impacts felt by Russia and its economy. The President also said that the sanctions are critical for sending a message to Putin. "If we don't move against him now with these significant sanctions, he will be emboldened," Biden said. 

Read the full list of all US sanctions against Russia here.

World leaders consider additional actions

US President Joe Biden says he agreed with fellow G7 leaders "to move forward on devastating packages of sanctions and other economic measures to hold Russia to account."

The United Kingdom is set to sanction 100 people and entities as part of further sanctions against Russia, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday afternoon.

In a speech to the UK parliament, the prime minister said the UK is announcing the "largest and most severe package of sanctions that Russia has ever seen."  

European Union leaders have been considering what some are calling the "nuclear option" of removing Russia from SWIFT, a high security network that connect thousands of financial institutions around the world, following the invasion of Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden said Thursday that removing Russia from SWIFT is not the direction the rest of Europe wants to go in at this moment, but noted that taking the nation out of the network is "always an option."

Looking for more detail? Here's a timeline of how things unfolded.

3:48 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Authorities order lights out across Lviv, Ukraine, citing security concerns

From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi in Lviv, Ukraine

Authorities in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv have ordered a city-wide lights out as a “preventative” security measure, less than a day after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the country. 

All street and building lighting is to be switched off at 11 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET), a Facebook post by the Lviv regional authority said. It instructed households to follow the order, and asked people not to leave their homes, with the exception of emergency cases. 

“Please note that such actions are not related to power supply problems,” the Facebook post said. “It will be done to take preventive measures for our security.” 

Lviv hosts a number of embassies and consulates which relocated from Kyiv in recent weeks because of the relative safety of the western Ukrainian city.

On Thursday morning, Russia attacked three locations in the region, activating air raid sirens in the city for the first time since World War II. 

3:37 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Canadian prime minister condemns Russia's attack on Ukraine and announces new sanctions

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar

(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during a briefing Thursday afternoon and announced a new set of sanctions. 

“Canada is unequivocal in our condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on the sovereign, democratic state of Ukraine,” he said. “President Putin’s brazen disregard for international law, democracy, and human life are a massive threat to security and peace around the world.” 

Trudeau said Canada is imposing “severe sanctions” that target 58 individuals and entities, including members of the Russian elite and their family members.

“We will also sanction members of the Russian security council, including the defense minister, the finance minister, and the justice minister,” Trudeau said. “In addition, effective immediately, we are ceasing all export permits for Russia and canceling existing permits. These sanctions are wide-reaching. They will impose severe costs on complicit Russian elites, and they will limit President Putin’s ability to continue funding this unjustified invasion.” 

In his address, Trudeau also called Putin’s actions “the greatest threat to European stability since World War II,” and said he has been in contact with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I told him that we are announcing strong action today and continue to stand with him and with the Ukrainian people,” Trudeau said. 

Earlier Thursday morning, Trudeau met with Canada’s G7 partners to coordinate a response to the invasion. He said the Canadian government is also working closely with NATO and other allies. 

“Together, we have made clear that Russian violence, aggression and violation of international law will not go unpunished,” Trudeau said. “We stand united and steadfast in our support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, and we stand in solidarity with [the] Ukrainian people’s right to decide their own future in a free and democratic state.” 

Trudeau called on Putin to stop all “hostile actions” against Ukraine and withdraw all military and proxy forces from the country. 

“And while the eyes of the world are on leaders, we can never lose sight of the human cost of conflict,” he said. “Innocent people, including children, are now facing violence and chaos. In these dark hours, Canada’s message to Ukraine is this: You are not alone. We are standing with you.”

3:55 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Crowds gather in central Paris in support of Ukraine

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Anaëlle Jonah in Paris

Protesters attend a demonstration at Place de la République in Paris on February 24.
Protesters attend a demonstration at Place de la République in Paris on February 24. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

Crowds gathered at Place de la République in central Paris on Thursday evening in a show of support for Ukraine, with many carrying the Ukrainian flag, according to CNN's team in Paris. 

The rally was one of two organized on Thursday to show support for Ukraine, including a protest staged in front of the Russian Embassy in Paris.

Members of the crowd could be heard chanting “sanctions against Russia.”

Some Ukrainian expatriates living in France were also present at the rally.

Slava – a Ukrainian national who declined to give his last name for safety reasons – told CNN, “I am here to support my country.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly characterized the quoted individual.

4:23 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Why some world leaders are considering removing Russia from a banking system known as SWIFT

From CNN's Charles Riley

European Union leaders have been considering what some are calling the "nuclear option" of removing Russia from SWIFT, a high security network that connect thousands of financial institutions around the world, following the invasion of Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden said Thursday that removing Russia from SWIFT is not the direction the rest of Europe wants to go in at this moment, but noted that taking the nation out of the network is "always an option."

“The sanctions that we’ve proposed on all their banks are of equal consequence, maybe more consequence than SWIFT,” Biden said, referring to the latest round of sanctions he announced today.

The Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday urged the West to ban Russia from SWIFT in a tweet. Earlier on Thursday, CNN reported that the EU was undecided as to whether to cut Russia off from SWIFT and that EU nations were split over the decision.

But what is SWIFT, and what could it mean for Russia? The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication was founded in 1973 to replace the telex and is now used by over 11,000 financial institutions to send secure messages and payment orders. With no globally accepted alternative, it is essential plumbing for global finance.

Removing Russia from SWIFT would make it nearly impossible for financial institutions to send money in or out of the country, delivering a sudden shock to Russian companies and their foreign customers — especially buyers of oil and gas exports denominated in US dollars.

"The cutoff would terminate all international transactions, trigger currency volatility, and cause massive capital outflows," Maria Shagina, a visiting fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, wrote in a paper last year for Carnegie Moscow Center. Excluding Russia from SWIFT would cause its economy to shrink by 5%, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin estimated in 2014.

SWIFT is based in Belgium and governed by a board consisting of 25 people, including Eddie Astanin, chairman of the management board at Russia's Central Counterparty Clearing Centre. SWIFT, which describes itself as a "neutral utility," is incorporated under Belgian law and must comply with EU regulations.

What happens if Russia is removed? There is precedent for removing a country from SWIFT.

SWIFT unplugged Iranian banks in 2012 after they were sanctioned by the European Union over the country's nuclear program. Iran lost almost half of its oil export revenue and 30% of foreign trade following the disconnection, according to Shagina.

"SWIFT is a neutral global cooperative set up and operated for the collective benefit of its community," the organization said in a statement in January. "Any decision to impose sanctions on countries or individual entities rests solely with the competent government bodies and applicable legislators," it added.

It's not clear how much support there is among US allies for taking similar action against Russia. The United States and Germany have the most to lose if Russia is disconnected, because their banks are the most frequent SWIFT users to communicate with Russian banks, according to Shagina.

The European Central Bank has warned lenders with significant exposure to Russia to prepare for sanctions against Moscow, according to the Financial Times. ECB officials have also asked banks how they would respond to scenarios including a move to prevent Russian banks accessing SWIFT.

Read more about SWIFT here.

CNN's Kate Sullivan in Washington, DC, Niamh Kennedy in London and James Frater in Lviv contributed reporting to this post.