"I am not afraid. I have to do this": Ukrainians enlist to fight Russian forces
From CNN's Atika Schubert in Lviv, Ukraine
Yuri Ivaniv, a 30-year-old veteran from the conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014, has returned to volunteer service once again to fight invading Russian troops.
Ivaniv told CNN his wife and child back home have emergency bags packed in case they have to flee to Poland.
His 6-year-old son was sleeping when he kissed him goodbye this morning. "We are all going. We have to fight. It’s our country. So I am not afraid. I have to do this," Ivaniv said.
But it's a conflict he never anticipated. Asked if he expected to have to fight again after his service in 2014, he said: “No. Never. He’s just mad, you know ... Putin."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on people to join the forces fighting Russia's invasion.
"Our boys and girls, the defenders of Ukraine, held up against this invasion on the first day. Ukrainians are showing their true heroism. Like our ancestors before, they are charging into battle. Russia continues to expect that our forces will grow tired, but we will not tire," Zelensky said in a video message on Friday.
5:49 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
Western officials are watching Russian activity beyond Ukraine, source says
From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis
Western and US intelligence officials are paying close attention for any signs of potential Russian activity in the western Balkans, according to a source familiar with the intelligence, although so far, they have seen nothing out of the ordinary.
Officials are also closely watching the Russian use of its military assets in Moldova in its campaign in Ukraine, where Russia backs the separatist republic of Transnistria.
The attention hints at lingering Western concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions could be greater than Ukraine.
Asked Thursday by CBS if there is intelligence that Putin intends to advance beyond Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “You don't need intelligence to tell you that that's exactly what President Putin wants.” "He's made clear that he'd like to reconstitute the Soviet empire. Short of that, he'd like to reassert a sphere of influence around neighboring countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc. And short of that, he'd like to make sure that all of these countries are somehow neutral,” Blinken said.
In Ukraine, the source said, Western intelligence officials assess that Russia’s plan is to topple the government in Kyiv and install a Russia-friendly proxy government -- but they don’t yet know whether Putin will seek to occupy and hold Ukrainian territory afterwards, the source said.
5:42 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
Ukrainians have pushed back Russians on bridge to Kherson
From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Kherson
A CNN team visited a bridge that crosses from Russian-held areas into Kherson, southern Ukraine. There had been fighting around it, with our team witnessing four large shell craters, 10 discarded Ukrainian armored vehicles and several dead, but the Ukrainians seems to have been able to push them back.
On Friday morning the team also witnessed low-flying jets. Russian forces are said to be just on the other side of the bridge in hidden positions. Meanwhile, civilians are still driving back and forth over the bridge.
CNN's team is also hearing air raid sirens in Kherson Friday morning.
5:32 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
18,000 weapons given to reservists in Kyiv region, as Ukrainian men from 18-60 banned from leaving
From CNN’s Tim Lister in Kyiv
Some 18,000 guns with ammunition have been distributed to reservists in the Kyiv region alone since the Russian invasion began early Thursday, according to Ukrainian authorities.
In a joint statement, defense minister Oleksiy Reznikov and Valeriy Zaluzhniy, chief of staff for the Armed Forces, said there were more arms coming.
“Soon we are to receive additional support with modern weapons and other resources from our partners,” they said.
Yesterday,Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered a general military mobilization.
Zelensky said that "in order to ensure the defense of the state, maintaining combat and mobilization readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations," a broad-based mobilization was ordered, including in the capital, Kyiv, and all Ukraine's major cities.
This included a ban on all male citizens from 18- to 60-years-old leaving the country, according to the State Border Guard Service
The mobilization also instructed the "conscription of conscripts, reservists for military service, their delivery to military units and institutions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine" and other state security services.
5:37 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
Head of DPR says region will need financial help from Moscow, and hints to closer ties with Russia
From Anna Chernova and CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow
The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said the region would need financial support from Moscow and suggested the possibility of even closer ties with Russia, in a live interview on Russia 24 Friday.
“Of course, the financial component here is quite serious and it will be difficult to do without Russia's support, but this is only at the first stages,” Denis Pushilin said. “Considering that the DPR will reach the administrative borders in the long run, according to our calculations, [the need for financial aid] will only be for a short-term period.”
“And then we will not only reach self-sufficiency but will also be able to help other regions,” Pushilin concluded.
Some background: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing the two controversial separatist-held regions, the DPR and the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), Monday in a ceremony carried on state television. On Thursday, Russian forces invaded Ukraine.
Conflict first broke out in 2014 after Russian-backed rebels seized government buildings in towns and cities across eastern Ukraine. Intense fighting left portions of the Donbas region's eastern Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts in the hands of Russian-backed separatists. Russia also annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 in a move that sparked global condemnation.
The Ukrainian government in Kyiv asserts the two regions are in effect Russian-occupied.
Casualties claimed: Pushilin went on to say Friday wasn’t a calm night for his forces.
“Unfortunately, I must admit that overnight there were wounded and dead among the military personnel [of separatist forces],” he said.
When asked when the military operation could be considered complete, Pushilin said: “As soon as we push back or destroy the weapons that are used to strike at our areas, then we can say that everything is completely safe on the territory of the DPR.”
He claimed several Ukrainian servicemen have been captured by the DPR forces.
“A number of servicemen, wanting to stay alive and return to their families, laid down their arms and surrendered,” Pushilin said suggesting prisoners will be able to return to their families “after the war ends.”
CNN cannot independently verify the claims made by Pushilin of casualties inflicted on Ukraine.
5:18 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
Sirens sounded across Kyiv Friday morning
From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv
Sirens rang out across Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv on Friday morning.
CNN witnessed a group of Ukrainian security forces leave the city police headquarters with weapons and ammunition -- apparently heading towards the northern district of Obolon, where fighting has been reported.
What is happening in Kyiv? Ukrainians in the capital huddled in air raid shelters Friday morning, amid claims of troops blowing up a bridge to stop an advance of Russian forces.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Russian reconnaissance troops have entered Obolon, which is just a few miles from the city center.
The ministry in a tweet asked citizens of the district to report any suspicious movements and adds: "Make Molotov cocktails and take down the occupier."
Before dawn, explosions lit up the sky as Russia targeted the city with missile strikes, according to a Ukrainian government adviser. A CNN team reported hearing two large blasts in central Kyiv and a third loud explosion in the distance, followed by at least three more explosions to the southwest of the city a few hours later.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said airborne assault troops blew up a bridge over the Teteriv River at Ivankiv, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Kyiv, successfully preventing a Russian column of forces from advancing towards the capital.
UEFA strips St. Petersburg of Champions League final, and moves match to Paris
UEFA has moved its flagship soccer match, the Champions League final, from St. Petersburg to Paris, it announced Friday.
The decision to move the game out of Russia was made on Friday morning at an extraordinary meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee, held in response to "the grave escalation of the security situation in Europe."
The game, on May 28, will now take place at the Stade de France, it said.
"UEFA wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to French Republic President Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis," UEFA said in a statement.
"Together with the French government, UEFA will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement," it added.
The Russian and Ukrainian national teams will also play home games at neutral venues, the agency said.
Soccer in the spotlight: UEFA has come under pressure to go further in its response, with some calls across Europe to ban Russia from competitions and end its sponsorship deal with Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Wednesday that English teams should boycott May's final -- if they make it -- as a result of Russia's actions.
"If I was on an English team, I would boycott it," Truss told British radio station LBC. "I would personally not want to be playing in a football match in St. Petersburg given what the Putin regime is doing."
4:41 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
Putin wants to "take Ukraine off the map of nations," French foreign minister says
From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Camille Knight in Paris
Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to “take Ukraine off the map of nations,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.
In response, the minister told radio station France Inter that European sanctions announced in the last 24 hours are designed to “asphyxiate the functioning of Russia, to strangle the functioning of Russia.”
Putin, Le Drian said, “chose a massive offensive -- he has decided to take Ukraine off the map of nations.”
The minister said that French sanctions against Russia that are yet to be announced by President Emmanuel Macron “will be drastic and strong -- that means freezing their means, freezing their check books, that means no longer being able to have economic activities in France.”
Asked why restrictions on Russia’s access to the SWIFT banking system were not included in sanctions so far, Le Drian said, “because we had to go quickly.”
There are no taboos” on sanctions, he added, “There will be other sanctions.”
The minister said that European leaders had received Ukrainian requests for military, financial and humanitarian aid, which he said they were following up on.
“They have requested a whole list of [military] equipment that we are studying,” he said.
Le Drian said that the security of the Ukrainian president is “a central element of what’s going on now,” following comments from Volodymyr Zelensky that Russia was targeting him and his family.
The minister said that “it’s important that [Zelensky] remains in his post” and that France was ready to help “if necessary”.
Today “is not the same thing as the Cold War,” Le Drian said. “Now there’s war at the heart of Europe.”
4:14 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
Ukrainian military says it's resisting Russian advance from north
From CNN's Tim Lister and Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv
Ukraine's military chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi said Friday that the country's army was successfully resisting Russian forces advancing from the north.
Zaluzhnyi said Ukrainian forces had been able to repel the breakthrough of Russian troops in the Chernihiv area north of the capital, Kyiv.
Enemy vehicles were forced to retreat from Chernihiv in the direction of Sedniv and from Horodnya to Semenivka," he said.
However, it appears Russian forces are consolidating their positions to the northwest of Kyiv after taking the airbase at Hostomel on Thursday.
Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defense, Anna Malyar, tweeted Friday about a "possible invasion of the occupiers in Vorzel and surrounding settlements," which is about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Kyiv.
Malyar added that Russian troops had seized two Ukrainian army vehicles, had put on Ukrainian army uniforms and were trying to advance on Kyiv.