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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9:48 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Kyiv hit with cruise or ballistic missiles, Ukrainian government adviser says

Ukraine's capital was targeted with missile fire early on Friday local time, according to an adviser to the country's government.

"Strikes on Kyiv with cruise or ballistic missiles continued," Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine's head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, told reporters via text message.

A CNN team on the ground reported hearing two large blasts in central Kyiv and a third loud explosion in the distance early on Friday.

9:33 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

US Defense Secretary pledges support for Kyiv in call with Ukrainian counterpart

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart on Thursday following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to a readout of the call. 

Austin told Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov that the US supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and would continue to provide defensive assistance to Kyiv in the face of Russia's "unfounded and unprovoked war."

Austin also held a series of conversations Thursday with US allies, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and the Bucharest Nine — a group of European nations including Romania and Poland that formed in 2015 following Russia's annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine.

He also spoke with the Turkish and Canadian defense ministers.

9:49 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Heavy explosions heard in central Kyiv

From CNN's Tim Lister

A CNN team in the Ukrainian capital reported hearing two large blasts in central Kyiv and a third loud explosion in the distance early on Friday.

9:25 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

UN Security Council vote on resolution condemning Russia scheduled for Friday

From CNN’s Senior UN Correspondent Richard Roth

A United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution condemning Russia is now officially listed on a UN schedule for Friday, but the proposal is expected to be vetoed by Moscow.

The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET though last minute haggling can’t be ruled out. 

Russia is the president of the council for February. The presidency rotates between members every month.

9:11 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Taiwan announces sanctions against Russia

Taiwan will impose economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the self-ruled island's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday.

In a news release, the ministry said it "strongly condemns" Russia's decision to start a war against Ukraine, adding that Moscow had posed a serious threat to the rules-based international order.

"In order to compel Russia to halt its military aggression against Ukraine, and to restart peaceful dialogue among all parties concerned as soon as possible, the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) announces it will join international economic sanctions against Russia," it said. 

The statement did not specify how Taiwan will sanction Russia, but the island is a global leader in the production of semiconductor chips.

Read more about the parallels between Taiwan and Ukraine:

9:05 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Australia announces new sanctions against Russia, criticizes China's "lack of a strong response"

From CNN's Isaac Yee

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new sanctions against Russia on Friday, targeting "oligarchs whose economic weight is of strategic significance to Moscow," and more than 300 members of the Russian Parliament who voted for the invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference, Morrison added that Australia is also working with the United States to coordinate sanctions on "key Belarusian individuals and entities complicit in the aggression, so we are extending those sanctions to Belarus."

The new sanctions come after Canberra imposed travel bans and targeted financial sanctions on eight top Russian officials on Thursday.

Ukraine aid: Morrison also confirmed that Australia has been working with NATO to provide “non-lethal military equipment and medical supplies to the people of Ukraine.”

He added that Australia is working “very closely with those partners and allies to support them in their time of need.” 

On China's response: The Prime Minister also criticized Beijing for its "lack of a strong response" to Russia's invasion of its former Soviet neighbor.

"At a time when the world was seeking to put additional sanctions on Russia, they have eased restrictions on the trade of Russian wheat into China. So at a time when Australia, together with the United Kingdom, together with the United States and Europe and Japan are acting to cut off Russia, the Chinese government is following through on easing trade restrictions with China, and that is simply unacceptable," Morrison said.

China refused to condemn Russia's invasion on Thursday, instead repeating calls for parties to "exercise restraint" and accusing the US of "fueling fire" in the tensions. The move to begin importing Russian wheat could ease the impact of Western sanctions on Russia. 

9:06 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

GOP lawmakers call for stronger sanctions against Russia, but some are careful in their criticism of Biden

From CNN's Melanie Zanona and Daniella Diaz

Key Republican voices from across Capitol Hill — who have been coordinating their messaging on the crisis in Ukraine — have been purposely measured in their criticism of US President Joe Biden in the immediate wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with top GOP lawmakers deliberately critiquing the President's policy decisions as opposed to lobbing personal attacks, according to Republican sources familiar with the situation.

The thinking among key Republicans is that they want to put on a united front and show solidarity with Ukraine, and they don't want to give any more ammunition to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Another reason they are calibrating their responses: Republicans want to send a clear signal to Biden that he would have bipartisan support if he were to move ahead with more punitive measures. While a bipartisan sanctions package stalled on Capitol Hill this month amid divisions over enacting preemptive sanctions, lawmakers are hoping to revive the issue when they return to Capitol Hill next week.

After a conference call with administration briefers on Thursday, one senator told CNN that "there was broad bipartisan agreement" for emergency funding legislation to help shore up the defense capabilities of NATO allies in the Eastern flank and to assist with refugees and humanitarian needs.

Still, Republicans are calling on Biden to enact immediate, stronger sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Ukraine and lamenting that he didn't do more to deter an attack before it occurred — even as they are being careful in how they criticize the President at a critical juncture in US foreign policy.

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul, House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mike Rogers and House Intelligence Committee ranking member Mike Turner said in a joint statement that they were "committed to enacting the strongest possible sanctions and export controls to cripple Russia's ability to make war, punish its barbarity and relegate the Putin regime to the status of an international pariah."

"We cannot respond like we did in 2008 or 2014. The world must never forget or forgive this heinous act," the Republicans said in a statement.

Read more:

9:18 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

White House condemns Russia over "credible reports" of taking staff hostage at Chernobyl

From CNN's Sam Fossum and Tim Lister

The White House on Thursday condemned Russia over “credible reports” that civilian staff of the Chernobyl power plant in northern Ukraine had been taken hostage.

"We are outraged by credible reports that Russian soldiers are currently holding staff of the Chernobyl facilities hostage," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
"This unlawful and dangerous hostage taking, which could upend the routine civil service efforts required to maintain and protect the nuclear waste facilities, is obviously incredibly alarming and greatly concerning. We condemn it and we request their release."

Russians take Chernobyl: Ukrainian officials on Thursday confirmed that Russian forces had overtaken the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster. 

Alyona Shevtsova, adviser to the supreme commander of Ukrainian Ground Forces, said on Facebook that Russian forces have taken control of the power station and staff members were being "held hostage." 

"After the fierce battle, our control over the Chornobyl zone was lost. The condition of the former ChNPP facilities, confinement and nuclear waste storage facilities is unknown. After a completely senseless Russian attack in this direction, it is impossible to say that Chernobyl is safe. This is one of the most serious threats to Europe today," Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said earlier on Thursday. 

The nuclear disaster: In 1986, more than 30 people died after an explosion ripped through one of the Chernobyl power station's reactors. In the years and months that followed, many more people died from radiation symptoms.

In the immediate aftermath, a steel and concrete sarcophagus was constructed to cover the damaged reactor and contain the radioactive material, but it has deteriorated since then — leaking radiation. 

In 2016 the New Safe Confinement arch was put in place to seal off the aging and hastily-constructed sarcophagus. In 2020 the facility was handed over to Ukrainian authorities, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

8:49 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

China's Embassy in Ukraine to organize charter flights to evacuate Chinese nationals  

From CNN's Isaac Yee and Beijing Bureau

China’s Embassy in Kyiv is organizing charter flights to evacuate Chinese nationals out of Ukraine on a voluntary basis due to the “high security risk” in the country.

In a statement released Thursday, the embassy said: “At present, the domestic situation in Ukraine is rapidly deteriorating. Chinese citizens and Chinese enterprises in Ukraine are at high security risk,” adding that in order to prepare for charter flights, registration for citizens to leave the country has now started.

Flight times will be determined by the safety situation, the statement added.

There are currently around 6,000 Chinese nationals in Ukraine according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.