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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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.

7:48 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

"Our worst fears have now come true," says British PM Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson records an address at Downing Street after he chaired an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the UK response to the crisis in Ukraine on February 24, in London, England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson records an address at Downing Street after he chaired an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the UK response to the crisis in Ukraine on February 24, in London, England. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying in a televised address that Vladimir Putin has “attacked a friendly country without any provocation, and without any credible excuse."

"Our worst fears have now come true, and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate," Johnson said.

Addressing the Russian people, he added: “I cannot believe this has been done in your name, or that you really want the pariah status it will bring to the Putin regime.”

He also called for Europe to end its dependence on Russian oil and gas.

But Johnson did not set out details of the UK's response, saying only that he was working with allies on a "massive package of economic sanctions” designed to “hobble the Russian economy."

On Tuesday, after Putin first ordered troops into two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine, Johnson announced sanctions on five Russian banks and three individuals -- measures that were criticized in some corners for not going far enough.

7:06 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

China refuses to criticize Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and begins importing Russian wheat

From CNN's Beijing bureau 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying attends a news conference in Beijing, China, on February 24.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying attends a news conference in Beijing, China, on February 24. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

China has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine Thursday, instead repeating calls for parties to "exercise restraint" and accusing the United States of "fueling fire" in the tensions.

In a Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing that went on for more than 90 minutes, spokesperson and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying dodged more than 11 questions regarding Russia's actions in Ukraine. They included repeated inquiries on whether Beijing would consider Russia's acts an invasion and whether they violated Ukraine's territorial integrity. 

Hua added that China would begin importing Russian wheat, a move that could ease the impact of Western sanctions on Russia. 

"The Ukraine issue has a very complicated historical background. It has evolved to the present situation due to the joint action of various factors ... security should be a matter of joint cooperation and sustainable security, and the legitimate security concerns of all parties should be respected and addressed," Hua said sticking closely to comments made the previous day. 

China is "closely following the latest situation" and calls on parties to "exercise restraint to avoid the situation getting out of control," Hua said repeatedly. 

After questions from multiple media on whether China considered Russia's moves an invasion, Hua asked reporters, "Why are you obsessed with this question?

"You can ask the US side. They keep fueling fires ... You can ask them if they have any plans to put out the fire."

On Thursday, China's customs administration also said they would begin allowing wheat imports as of February 24 from Russia. The two countries had announced an agreement earlier this month for China to import Russian wheat during Putin's visit to Beijing to meet with President Xi and attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics. 

The China-Russia friendship: Beijing is navigating a complex position as it attempts to balance deepening ties with Moscow with its practiced foreign policy of staunchly defending state sovereignty.

Though not military allies, China and Russia have been presenting an increasingly united front in the face of what they view as Western interference into their respective affairs and regions.

7:48 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

France's Macron to address the nation on Ukraine

From CNN's Joseph Ataman in Paris and Niamh Kennedy in London

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to address the nation on the Ukraine situation "shortly," according to the Élysée Palace. 

Footage posted by the Élysée Palace on Twitter showed the French president convening an emergency meeting of the French National Defense Council on Thursday morning. 

During the clip, Macron is heard saying that he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday morning. 

"Of course, this morning what he described to me was a situation of total war, asking for our solidarity, European and international coordination, initiatives towards Russia," Macron told the meeting.  

He added that he will speak with Zelensky again on Thursday after the National Defense Council meeting. 

In the clip, the French president tells attendees that the meeting was called to "plan all short-term actions to be taken ourselves, and initiatives to be taken at European and international level."

6:56 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

In face of "armed aggression," Ukraine starts to cut diplomatic links with Russia

From CNN’s Gul Tuysuz in Kyiv

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has started taking steps to officially sever diplomatic ties with Russia, according to a statement.

Ukraine has also recalled its Chargé d'Affaires in the Russian Federation for consultations and has begun the evacuation of the embassy in Moscow.

“Our state took such a step in response to the act of armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, the invasion of Russian troops to destroy the Ukrainian state, the seizure of Ukrainian territory by force and the establishment of occupation control,” the Foreign Ministry said. 

“We emphasize that Russia's offensive operation is an attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, a gross violation of the UN Charter and fundamental norms and principles of international law,” the statement added. 

While the Ukrainian government plans to sever diplomatic relations with Russia, it has said it will not sever consular relations. 

“We will continue to defend the rights and interests of Ukrainians in Russia, including Ukrainian political prisoners,” the statement outlined. “Consular offices of Ukraine in Russian Federation currently continue to operate on a full-time basis.”

6:51 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

NATO to deploy more land and air forces

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin in London 

NATO will increase land, sea and air forces on its eastern flank amid Russia’s “horrifying attack on Ukraine,” the security alliance said in a statement Thursday. 

“Russia’s actions pose a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security, and they will have geostrategic consequences. NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the security and defence of all Allies,” the statement said.

“We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces to the eastern part of the Alliance, as well as additional maritime assets. We have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies,” it added. 

The statement condemned Russia’s actions, which it labeled “unjustified and unprovoked,” and reaffirmed that it stood with the people of Ukraine. 

“Today, we have held consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty. We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all Allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defence across the Alliance. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory,” the statement continued. 

“Our commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is iron-clad. We stand united to defend each other,” it stated. 

6:46 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

There is now no US diplomatic presence in Ukraine

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

There is no longer a US diplomatic presence in Ukraine at this time, according to a US official familiar with the matter.

US diplomats had been spending their nights in Poland and their workdays in Lviv, western Ukraine, over the last few days. But after the Russian assault on Ukraine began Thursday the US diplomats did not go back into the country --- and there are no plans for them to do so anytime soon, the official said.

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

Overnight the US embassy in Ukraine announced they had suspended consular services.

“On February 24, 2022, the Department of State suspended consular operations in Lviv, Ukraine, following the suspension of consular services at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on February 12, 2022," according to the embassy's website.