February 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Amy Woodyatt, Rob Picheta, Ed Upright, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 3:47 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022
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11:14 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022

"Amphibious assault" underway west of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, senior US defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

There is an “amphibious assault” underway on the Sea of Azov, located west of Mariupol in Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters on Friday.

Russians are now “putting potentially thousands of naval infantry ashore there,” the official said.

The official did not know exactly what these infantrymen are going to do in Ukraine, but the official said “the general assumption is they are going to move towards the northeast, towards Mariupol and the Donbas region.”

11:08 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022

Russians "meeting more resistance" in advance towards Kyiv "than they expected," US defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Russian forces advancing towards the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv are “meeting more resistance than they expected,” a senior US defense official told reporters on Friday. 

“I can’t give you an exact geographic location of where they are, but they are not moving on Kyiv as fast as they anticipated they would be able to,” the official said.

The official added, Russians “continue to try to move on Kyiv,” even though they are meeting Ukrainian resistance.

The Russian invasion of the country is continuing in the Kharkiv area of Ukraine and from the south towards the Ukrainian city of Kherson on the river, the official added. These are still the three main advances on the country that Russia began yesterday, the official said.

There have been “no additional airborne drops over the last 24 hours” in the Kharkiv area, the official said.  

The biggest change that the US is seeing is from the advance in the south, the official added. Russian forces are still moving towards Kherson on the river, but they are also splitting off some forces to go to the northeast “in the direction of Mariupol and the Donbas region,” the official said.

“The south towards Kherson on the river — we do assess that they continue to move in that direction. But we also think that — based on what we’re seeing in addition to moving from Crimea on an axis towards the northwest towards Kherson — they are also splitting off some forces to go to the northeast, sort of in the direction of Mariupol' and the Donbas region,” the official said.

Here's a map to understand the locations better:

A look at the locations where Ukraine is under Russian military assault
A look at the locations where Ukraine is under Russian military assault CNN's Henrik Pettersson

11:58 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022

Webcam video shows massive Russian military convoy in Nova Kakhovka, Ukraine

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Video taken by a webcam shows a massive Russian military convoy moving in Nova Kakhovka, Ukraine, at a Dnieper River crossing.

In the video, dozens of military vehicles are seen alongside a railroad near one of the only two Dnieper River crossings. The convoy moves toward the bridge and then appears to double back and head west. 

In the video, an airstrike can also be seen in the distance. 

The two bridges at Nova Kakhovka — a railroad bridge and a vehicle bridge — are vital for the Russians, who have reportedly been trying to advance their frontline in the area and cross from the south bank,to the north bank of the Dnieper River. 

There are only two other Dnieper River crossings for over 100 miles: a bridge a Kherson — which a CNN team in the city says has been the site of intense clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces — and a railroad bridge just east of Kherson at Prydniprovs'ke. 

The webcam had been broadcasting the location of the Russian convoy for hours, showing the dozens and dozens of military vehicles moving around the bridges. But at 11:11 a.m. local time, the camera suddenly was forced downward so it could only view the ground directly beneath it. 

In frame, as the camera looks at the ground, are a number of Russian soldiers. 

Watch the video:

11:01 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022

Ukrainian foreign minister calls on US secretary of state to urge European partners to ban Russia from SWIFT

From CNN’s Chris Liakos in Paris

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba briefs the media after a UN General Assembly meeting in New York on February 23.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba briefs the media after a UN General Assembly meeting in New York on February 23. (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)

In a telephone call on Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on his US counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken to urge “hesitant European” leaders to ban Russia from SWIFT, a high-security messaging network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world.

“Another call with my American friend and counterpart [Secretary Blinken] on the need to use all US influence on some hesitant European countries in order to ban Russia from SWIFT,” Kuleba tweeted. 

The United States and European Union have so far held back from cutting Russia off from SWIFT after failing to agree on a step that some have called the “nuclear option.”

In a tweet shared after the call between Kuleba and Blinken, the Ukrainian foreign minister noted that the two also discussed the “further supply of defensive weapons to Ukraine.”

10:57 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022

Russian military claims "successful landing operation" to capture Hostomel airfield on the outskirts of Kyiv

from CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov claimed Friday that Russian forces staged a "successful landing operation" to capture Hostomel airfield on the outskirts of Kyiv. 

"More than 200 Russian helicopters were involved in the operation," according to the statement. "The success of the landing was ensured by the suppression of the entire air defense system in the landing area, the complete isolation of the combat area from the air and the active conduct of electronic warfare."

Konashenkov claimed that Russian forces killed more than 200 of the opposing forces and that there were no casualties among in the Russian Armed Forces.

CNN could not immediately corroborate those claims, but a CNN team on the ground witnessed Russian airborne troops taking positions at the airfield Thursday. 

The Russian statement claimed — without evidence — that US military and intelligence advisers have instructed Ukrainian military leaders to place rocket artillery systems in residential areas to provoke return fire on local residents, echoing propaganda claims that the Russian military has made in Syria to counter allegations of civilian casualties caused by Russian strikes. 

"I appeal to Ukrainian citizens," Konashenkov said. "Your nationalist leadership uses the same methods as the terrorists. They want to use you as a human shield. The Russian Armed Forces will not inflict any strikes on residential areas of the Ukrainian capital."

More context: Two residential buildings in Kyiv suffered damage in the early hours of Friday, but it's not clear if they were intentionally struck or hit by debris, or if anyone was injured.

Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Evgeny Yenin told CNN a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet was shot down over Kyiv. Photos tweeted by the emergency forces appear to show a fire at a two-story private house with debris from what appears to be a plane nearby. It is unclear if the house was hit by remnants of the jet.

Separately, images showed firefighters working to put out a blaze at an apartment building on the left bank of the city.

10:40 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022

Ukraine accuses Belarus of trying to hack into the private email accounts of Ukrainian military personnel

From CNN's Sean Lyngaas

Hackers working for the Belarusian Ministry of Defense have sent a “mass” of phishing emails trying to compromise the private email accounts of Ukrainian military personnel and their associates, Ukrainian officials alleged Friday. 

It wasn’t immediately clear how successful the hacking attempts have been, but they could provide useful information to Belarusian intelligence services, and in turn Russian forces as they bear down on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. 

After breaching an email account, the hackers send additional malicious emails to the account’s contacts to propagate the hacking campaign, the Ukrainian government’s Computer Emergency Response Team said in a Facebook post.

Victor Zhora, a senior cybersecurity official at the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine, told CNN that the aim of exposing the phishing campaign was to “prevent [it from having] a bigger impact.” Zhora said officials don’t know how successful the hacks have been yet. 

CNN has reached out to the Belarus’ Ministry of Defense for comment.

Belarus has played a key role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces crossed the Belarus-Ukraine border with support from Belarus, according to Ukrainian officials. The Biden administration has sanctioned nine Belarusian defense firms for their support of the invasion. 

The alleged Belarusian hacking group has had a long history of hack-and-leak operations targeting NATO members. An information operations group linked with the hackers planted a fake letter on the website of a Polish military academy that purported to denounce the presence of US troops in Poland, according to cybersecurity analysts. 

In November, US cybersecurity firm Mandiant linked the hacking group to the Belarusian government with “high confidence,” adding that the group has supported information operations in Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Germany.

10:41 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022

CNN reporter's diary from the ground: Everything has changed in 48 hours

From CNN’s Sebastian Shukla and Olga Konovalova in Zaporizhzhia

As we left Mariupol for Zaporizhzhia, there were few people on the streets, no queues at ATMs and the last petrol station on the way out, wasn’t just running on fumes — it was out of gas completely.

We had used a hotel in Zaporizhzhia as a base for two weeks. So we stocked up there — put a hot meal in us — for our seven-hour drive to Kyiv.

The hotel staff where we had been staying were happy and chatty. They were people of sunny dispositions, doing honest jobs — even when the sky was lead grey.

But it was clear something had changed. One of the managers approached me and said, “Are you CNN?”

“Yes, is everything OK?” I replied.

“Yes, of course, we wanted to make sure you had a good stay. But also to tell you, did you hear about Chernobyl?” He went on to tell me that the Zaporizhzhia municipality has told him their water is already showing higher traces of radioactivity following the fighting and capture by Russian forces.

I said, we had heard, and I hoped the hotel has some water tanks in reserve — they do.

But at the front desk, a woman I had seen everyday didn’t greet me like she had done before. She was just looking at her computer with tears in her eyes.

But the most heart-wrenching moment came as our fixer, Olga Konovalova, said goodbye to her parents in the hotel lobby. They were hugging each other — her parents clearly loving and worried as she bravely covers what will undoubtedly be the defining moment in her life.

I felt bad for hovering and saying we need to leave. But I turned to her mother and said, "Everything will be OK."

I uttered the heroic Ukrainian phrase, “Slava Ukraini” [Glory to Ukraine]. Usually, you reply raucously, “Geroyam Slava” [glory to the heroes], which she did … but that rousing phrase had a different feeling when a top lip quivers and a tear hits a cheek.

It summarizes to me how much had changed — not just in Zaporizhzhia but the entire country in 48 hours.
10:27 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022

Ukraine retains control of key cities, according to UK defense intelligence update

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

Russia has made “limited progress” in its attack on Ukraine Friday, according to the latest British defense intelligence update.

"Fighting continues in key locations. Russia has made limited progress so far today and Ukraine retains control of key cities. Ukranian MOD reports that Russian forces have arrived in the suburbs of Kyiv," the UK Ministry of Defence tweeted Friday.

"Russian strikes and exchange of artillery fire continued throughout the night and into the morning," it said, adding that they continue to see "no evidence of strikes in Lviv."


10:43 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022

EU will sanction Putin and Lavrov, German foreign minister says

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin and Niamh Kennedy

Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister, speaks to the media before the special meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on February 25 in Brussels, Belgium.
Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister, speaks to the media before the special meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on February 25 in Brussels, Belgium. (Florian Gaertner/Photothek/Getty Images)

The European Union will sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Friday.

"We now also list the President of the Republic Mr. Putin and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Lavrov," Baerbock told reporters on her way into the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Friday. 

"They are responsible for the fact that innocent people die in Ukraine, they are responsible for the fact that the international system is trampled upon and we as Europeans do not accept that.”

On Thursday, the EU announced a raft of sanctions against Russia which European Commission chief Ursula Von der Leyen said would increase Russia’s borrowing costs, raise inflation and “gradually erode Russia’s industrial base.”