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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5:27 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Ukraine's State Border Guard says island south of country's coast falls into Russian hands

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

The small Ukrainian island of Zmiinyi in the Black Sea has been captured by the Russian forces, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service said in a statement posted on Facebook late on Thursday.

The border guard service said infrastructure on the island was destroyed after an aerial attack and artillery shelling. Communications with the border guards and armed forces on the island was severed, according to the post. 

Zmiinyi Island, or “Snake Island,” is one of the country’s southernmost settlements. The island, which is roughly 20 miles south from the Ukrainian coast, island plays a key role in establishing the boundaries of Ukraine’s territorial waters.

The island’s small population consists mostly of border guards. 

The border guard service said in a statement that the island had been "captured by the enemy" based on last information it received. It added that Russian forces demanded that those defending the island surrender. 

“It should be noted that the SBGSU, together with the Ukrainian armed forces and the National Guard of Ukraine, continues to fight actively against enemy,” the statement added.

5:27 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

CNN team witnesses major outgoing artillery fire from Russian forces

From CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen

At around 12:15 a.m. local time, salvos of what appeared to be artillery rockets were fired toward Ukraine, according to a CNN crew on the ground. 

CNN has seen heavy concentrations of Russian troops south of Belgorod in Russia near the final checkpoint towards Ukraine and a highway that leads to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. 

4:59 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

FC Barcelona and Napoli share joint "STOP WAR" sign prior to football match in Italy

From CNN's David Close

Prior to Thursday's UEFA Europa League match between FC Barcelona and Napoli, players from both sides lifted a sign reading "STOP WAR."

The sign was held in unison before kickoff at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Naples, Italy.

The two teams also shared a photo of the sign on their respective Twitter accounts with Spanish and Italian phrases that translate in English to "Let's stop the war," followed by the hashtag #StopWar.

The official website for FC Barcelona said, "The message is a united condemnation of Russia’s military action against Ukraine."

Barcelona won the match 4-2.

Here are both team's tweets:

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.