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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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.

7:54 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Russian attack on Ukraine is "most serious attack on peace" in decades, French president says

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman, Camille Knight and Martin Goillandeau

French President Emmanuel Macron said that Russian’s aggression against Ukraine constituted “the most serious attack on peace, on stability in Europe for decades,” in a national address Thursday.

“By choosing war, President Putin did not just attack Ukraine,” he said. “He has decided to carry out the most serious attack on peace, on stability in Europe for decades.”

Unusually, Macron spoke in front of the flag of Ukraine, as well as the flags of the France and the European Union.

He began the address by saluting the courage and determination of the Ukrainian people. “Their liberty is our own," he said. 

"These events are a turning point in the history of Europe and our country. They will have lasting and far-reaching consequences on our lives, on the geopolitics of our continent."

"The sanctions imposed on Russia will be commensurate with the aggression of which it is guilty,” Macron said, adding that, “we will be without weakness."

He said that European sanctions will target Russia’s military, economy and energy sectors.

He said that he will speak before the French parliament tomorrow with further information on France’s response.

8:09 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

UK prime minister vows "massive" sanctions on Russia for attack on Ukraine

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

A TV grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a speech from Downing Street, London, in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
A TV grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a speech from Downing Street, London, in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. (PA Images/Reuters)

Britain and its allies will slap a “massive package of economic sanctions” on Moscow for invading Ukraine, “designed in time to hobble the Russian economy,” the UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged in a televised address Thursday.   

Calling Vladimir Putin a “dictator,” Johnson condemned the Russian president for unleashing war on European continent.

“He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse. Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population A vast invasion is under way by land by sea and by air,” Johnson said. 

Britain is joined in outrage by “friends and allies around the world,” he said, adding that the UK will work with them to “ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored.” 

He called the invasion an “act of wanton and reckless aggression,” and said it “not just on Ukraine” but on “democracy and freedom in east Europe and around the world.”

Johnson said he has spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer his continued support and said that new sanctions would be agreed on Thursday. 

7:59 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Kremlin spokesperson echoes Putin's baseless claims on invasion objectives

From CNN's Anna Chernova in Moscow

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine are among the objectives of Russia's military action in the country, which he described as a "special operation."

“Ideally, Ukraine should be liberated, cleansed of Nazis, of pro-Nazi people and ideology,” Peskov said, though he refused to say if that meant regime change in Kyiv. 

This Russian claim of a need to "denazify" Ukraine is one Putin has touted repeatedly over the years and is entirely baseless.

Peskov also said the operation would end only when its objectives had been reached. 

The operation has its goals, they should be reached. The president has said that all the decisions have been made and all the goals will be reached,” Peskov said. “It all depends on the decision of supreme commander-in-chief [President Putin].”

Putin announced his decision to "conduct a special military operation" in a surprise address overnight. During that speech, he said it was "to protect people who have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years," restating a groundless claim about Ukraine's Russian-separatist-backed Donbas region.

The invasion began shortly after with a series of missile attacks against locations near Kyiv, as well as the use of long-range artillery against the northeastern city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border.

7:42 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

CNN sees more military rockets that appear to be fired from Russian territory into Ukraine

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen and Aditi Sangal

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is on the ground at the Ukraine-Russia border in the Belgorod region and reports more artillery rockets that appear to be fired from Russian territory into Ukraine.

"That's another salvo of what we believe is multiple artillery rocket launchers that have been going off here," Pleitgen said.

He is reporting from the last checkpoint before the frontline, on the Russian side, in the south of a town called Belgorod.

Watch the artillery rocket fired here:

7:40 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

West condemns "Putin's war" as a "dark day for Europe"

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives to deliver a statement following a meeting of the security cabinet of the German government on February 24, in Berlin, Germany.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives to deliver a statement following a meeting of the security cabinet of the German government on February 24, in Berlin, Germany. (Clemens Bilan/Getty Images)

International condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been swift and sharp, with several leaders also promising a new, harsher wave of sanctions on Moscow in the coming hours.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz criticized Russia's military operation “in the strongest possible terms,” calling it a “reckless act by President Putin,” a “terrible day for Ukraine and a dark day for Europe.”

"There is no justification for any of this -- this is Putin's war," Scholz told reporters at a news conference in Berlin.

The European Union said: “We demand President Putin to cease Russian military operations immediately and unconditionally withdraw all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine.”

It added that Russia “bears full responsibility for this act of aggression and all the destruction and loss of life it will cause.”

And French President Emmanuel Macron, who had emerged as a key broker in Europe's attempts to avert an invasion, wrote: “France stands in solidarity with Ukraine. It stands with Ukrainians and is working with its partners and allies to end the war.”

Elsewhere, Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the country would provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine if needed, adding: "Israel has long experience in wars, and war is not the way to resolve conflicts.”

And in Taiwan, which has been closely watching events in Europe given the claims of China's Communist Party that the island is its territory, foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou was quick to condemn Putin's move.

"Ukrainian cities like Kyiv has been attacked by gunfire, leading to fears of a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine," she said. "We call on all sides to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and oppose the use of violence or coercion to change the status quo."

7:35 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Russian helicopters shot down near Kyiv, says Ukrainian Interior Ministry

From CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said Thursday that three Russian helicopters were shot down in the Kyiv region. 

“One Russian helicopter K-52 and three helicopters near Gostomel were shot down in the Kyiv region, near Mezhyhirya,” the ministry said in a statement published on its website. 

Earlier Thursday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said six Russian planes had been shot down as forces attacked Ukraine. Russian military denied the claims, state news agency TASS reported.

7:50 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Turkey's Erdogan rejects Russia's "unacceptable" military action on Ukraine

From Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech as he receives the delegation of the International Union of Democrats in Ankara, Turkey, on February 24.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech as he receives the delegation of the International Union of Democrats in Ankara, Turkey, on February 24. (Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected Russia’s military action on Ukraine, calling it “unacceptable” in a televised speech on Thursday. 

“This step, which we see as contrary to international law, is a blow to the regional stability and peace,” Erdogan said. 

Erdogan said he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier, and he reiterated support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“We sincerely regret that Russia and Ukraine, that we see both as friendly countries and that we have close political and social relations, have come face to face in this way,” he added. 

“We will do our part to ensure the safety of everyone living in Ukraine, especially our own citizens and Tatar brothers in the region,” he added. 

Erdogan spoke to Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Wednesday, where he expressed his rejection to the Russian president’s steps against Ukraine’s sovereignty.

7:23 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Germany promises help to neighbors with refugees fleeing Ukraine

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Federal Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser attends a security cabinet meeting on February 24 in Berlin, Germany.
German Federal Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser attends a security cabinet meeting on February 24 in Berlin, Germany. (Henning Schacht/Getty Images)

Germany has pledged support to its neighbors, including Poland, in the event of an influx of people after Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

"We are following very closely whether there will be an influx of refugees to our neighboring countries," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement.

Germany "will provide massive help to the affected states -- especially our neighbor Poland -- should there be a large-scale influx,” and remains in close contact with Poland and the EU Commission, she said.

EU coordination and support mechanisms, particularly for humanitarian aid, had already been launched so that ''very concrete support for Ukraine's neighboring states can be provided very quickly,” the statement adds.

Germany's interior minister also said that the country's security authorities ramped up protective measures to counter any cyberattacks.

CNN teams have witnessed a crush of traffic heading west out of the capital Kyiv in the hours after Russia's attack on Ukraine began.

"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 Russia. It is an absolutely chaotic scene on the road," CNN's Matthew Chance reported on Thursday.