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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10:42 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

The EU is undecided on whether to cut Russia from a vital global payment network

From CNN's Luke McGee

As Western allies work on their coordinated response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there appears to be a real possibility that the European Union might take the controversial step of cutting Russia off from SWIFT, a high-security payment network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world.

Removing Russia from SWIFT would make it almost impossible for financial institutions to send money in or out of the country. This would seriously impact Russian businesses with foreign customers and could do real damage to the country's economy.

However, EU nations are split on whether to take this step or not. Senior EU sources have told CNN that there is a divide in the member states between countries like Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who want SWIFT as part of the sanctions package that will be announced later today, and the likes of Germany, Italy, Hungary and Cyprus, who have stronger economic ties to Russia and do not want SWIFT included in the new sanctions.

A senior EU diplomat said “there is a conversation happening” but believes it is “likely” the economic interests will win the argument and Brussels will not cut Russia from SWIFT.

9:43 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

On the ground: In Lviv, Ukraine, air raid sirens have sounded for the first time since World War II 

From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi and Mohammed Tawfeeq in Lviv, Ukraine 

People wait in line at a gas station in Lviv, Ukraine, on February 24.
People wait in line at a gas station in Lviv, Ukraine, on February 24. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday morning, air raid sirens sounded in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv for the first time — outside of regular drills — since World War II. Like clockwork, the picturesque city transformed from a tourist hotspot to a place preparing for war.

Even as TV screens flashed warnings of an imminent attack on the country in recent days, tour groups continued to flock the city’s cobblestoned streets, where dazzling baroque-style architecture stretches for miles. Diplomatic missions and international groups fled to the relative safety of Lviv from the capital Kyiv shortly after.

But that bubble burst when Russia attacked three locations — military facilities — in the Lviv region on Thursday morning.

"It was very tough this morning," Lviv Deputy Mayor Andriy Moskalenko told CNN on Thursday morning. "This morning, we had sirens and it was a sign for people to move to underground shelters ... the explosions were far away from the city."

Most shops in the city were shuttered. Long queues extended outside the few open stores— pharmacies, supermarkets, and even pet stores. The wait is over two hours long at most petrol pumps, or gas stations, where fuel is being rationed in an attempt to prevent fuel shortages.

Svetlana Locotova lets out a hearty laugh from a long queue outside a cash machine. She’s on the phone with her relatives in the heavily shelled eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where many of the city's inhabitants are taking cover in the city’s subway station.

Next to her is her 12-year-old daughter, Margarita. Speaking to CNN, but also — it would seem — to her daughter, who nervously forces a smile, she says cheerily, “It’s totally normal that this would happen. I expected this queue. This is just how people react."

She and Margarita have just returned from a shooting range — a common pastime here lately. “We’re confident, but we’re preparing for the worst,” she says.

People here go about the day with a sense of defiance, even as the city seems transformed. “Ukraine is no stranger to war” is the common refrain. The change in mood is almost imperceptible. Many still exchange smiles and jokes, even as they speak about preparing their homes to receive relatives from the significantly harder-hit east of the country.

“Ukrainian society got used to war, not at this scale of course. But we’re used to it,” says Lviv-based Maria Toma, an official at the Mission for Russian-occupied Crimea at the Ukrainian president’s office.

“What I would like to see is [Russian President Vladimir Putin] at The Hague in court,” says Toma. “I believe he will be convicted as a war criminal.” 

9:27 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

An air raid warning has been issued in Kyiv by the city's government 

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll

An air raid warning has been issued by the Kyiv city government.

All residents are being asked to seek underground shelters. Air sirens can be heard across Kyiv.

9:58 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Biden administration considering moving more US troops further east in Europe

From CNN's Barbara Starr

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a statement on Russia's attack on Ukraine, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 24.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a statement on Russia's attack on Ukraine, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 24. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is considering moving more US forces already in Europe to countries further east due to the massive Russian firepower so close to allies, according to a US official familiar with the matter.  

NATO has given the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, US General Tod Wolters, the authority to activate NATO defense stance, which would include the capability to activate the NATO Response Force, according to a US official and a European diplomatic source. 

“Today we activated NATO’s defense stance that gives our military commanders more authority to move forces and to deploy forces when needed, and of course this can also be elements of the NATO response force,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday. “We are ready, we are adjusting our posture but what we do is defensive, measured, and we don’t seek confrontation. We want to prevent the conflict.”
9:21 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Russian authorities warn citizens against participating in anti-war protests

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

Russian authorities have told citizens not to participate in anti-war protests, the country’s Investigative Committee warned in a statement on Thursday. 

“In connection with the spread of calls for participation in riots and rallies related to the tense foreign policy situation,” the committee statement warned against the “negative legal consequences of these actions, which include prosecution and up to criminal liability.”

“It should be remembered that holding a criminal record holds negative consequences and leaves a mark on the person’s future,” the Investigative Committee added.

10:53 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

On the ground: Russian forces take control of an air base near Kyiv, Ukraine

From CNN's Matthew Chance and Aditi Sangal

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.

"They've allowed us to come in and be with them as they defend the perimeter of this airbase, where 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.

The troops have an orange and black band on the arm of their uniforms to identify them as Russian forces, Chance added.

The commander of the unit told CNN there was a fire fight — presumably with the Ukrainian military, which says it is staging a counteroffensive to try and take back this airport.

Chance added, "We hearing some aircraft in the air ... There is a plume of black smoke, gray smoke, brown smoke, coming up from inside the compound of the air base. I think there are jets in the sky above us."

11:47 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

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

Passengers arrive on a train from Odessa via Lviv in Ukraine to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, on February 24.
Passengers arrive on a train from Odessa via Lviv in Ukraine to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, on February 24. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

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: