February 27, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Steve George, Rob Picheta, Jeevan Ravindran, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury, Amir Vera and Emma Tucker, CNN

Updated 8:17 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022
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8:45 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

UK to crack down on "dirty money" from Russian oligarchs

From CNN's Susanna Capelouto

British leaders plan to introduce legislation in Parliament on Monday aimed at clamping down on money laundering and fraud following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.    

The measure would strengthen law enforcement to go after corrupt oligarchs and create a so-called “Register of Overseas Entities,” where foreigners who own property in the United Kingdom must be identified by name, according to a government statement.

“There is no place for dirty money in the UK,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the statement. “We are going faster and harder to tear back the façade that those supporting Putin’s campaign of destruction have been hiding behind for so long.” 

The government said the registry sets up a new standard for global transparency so “criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies.”  

The registry will be retroactive for property bought up to 20 years ago in England and Wales and since 2014 in Scotland. The bill also includes a prison sentence of up to five years for anyone breaking the new rules.  

Some context: Decades of loose regulation and courting of Russian investors mean that some allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin are now deeply integrated into UK society.

Wealthy Russians flocked to London over the past three decades after gaining entry to the UK via investor visa programs, according to a report published by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament in 2020. Light-touch regulation, lucrative investment opportunities and a legal system that can be used to settle disputes helped attract the oligarchs.

Many Russian oligarchs made their fortunes when state-owned companies were privatized in the chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In London, they found an army of lawyers and bankers who were willing to help them invest in UK companies and London property, according to analysts.

8:39 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

US and allied partners to Ukrainian foreign minister: "We stand with Ukraine"

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his G7 counterparts “underscored” the “unified response to Russia’s invasion,” in a call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Sunday, according to a State Department readout.

“Together we are supporting the Ukrainian people and imposing severe costs and consequences to hold Russia accountable for its war of choice,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “We stand with Ukraine and recognize the bravery and heroism of the Ukrainian people.”

The foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the High Representative of the European Union were also on the call.

8:07 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

European Commission president says EU wants Ukraine to join bloc 

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie in Melbourne, Australia 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attends a press conference at the European Commission in Brussels on Sunday.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attends a press conference at the European Commission in Brussels on Sunday. (Stephanie Lecocq/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine belongs in the European Union (EU) and the bloc wants them in, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a televised interview with Euronews Sunday. 

"We have a process with Ukraine that is, for example, integrating the Ukrainian market into the single market. We have very close cooperation on the energy grid, for example. So many topics where we work very closely together and indeed over time, they belong to us. They are one of us and we want them in," von der Leyen said. 

In a tweet Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he spoke to von der Leyen about strengthening Ukraine’s defense capabilities and its membership in the EU.  

Becoming a member of the bloc is a complex procedure and Ukraine is currently not an official candidate for EU accession. 

Responding to a question on the possibility of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, von der Leyen told Euronews it was “important” Ukraine “agrees to the peace talks and that conditions are fine” but “trust in President Putin is completely broken and eroded."

The interview followed the EU’s announcement on Sunday to provide arms to Ukraine as its military tries to hold back Russian forces. 

“For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” the EC statement said. 

7:23 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

USAID director visits the Poland-Ukraine border, speaks with Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion

From CNN’s Sam Fossum

President Joe Biden's USAID director Samantha Power was at the Poland-Ukraine border Sunday observing arriving refugees. 

I saw the human stakes today in talking to those same Ukrainian refugees you just heard from coming across the border and if this conflict continues it's only going to get worse," Power told CNN's Fredricka Whitfield. 

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the federal agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and other assistance.

Power reflected on what she saw at the border, mentioning how the group of people crossing the border are almost exclusively women and children. 

"As somebody who has covered a lot of refugee crises over the years, really one of the most striking features of today's population coming over is that it's almost exclusively women and children and this speaks to the kind of society-wide mobilization that has occurred in Ukraine and that fighting-age men are staying behind to be part of these territorial defense units," Power said. 

Men between the ages of 18-60 are currently not permitted to leave Ukraine.

She added: "It was harrowing, this journey for the families that I talked to."

Power also talked about the "shock" many Ukrainians expressed over Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and their desire for peace. 

On Sunday evening, Power tweeted out a video from her visit close to Poland's border with Ukraine, adding more about what she saw. 

On Saturday, USAID said Power was traveling "to Poland and Belgium on February 26-28 to discuss the U.S. government’s coordinated response with allies and partners to respond to Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified invasion of Ukraine."

7:09 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Australian financial sanctions, travel bans against Putin and other Russian officials come into effect 

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie in Sydney, Australia 

Australian travel bans and targeted financial sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and senior members of his government are now in effect, the country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed in a statement Monday. 

“From midnight last night, Australian targeted financial sanctions and travel bans came into effect on the Russian President and remaining permanent members of Russia’s Security Council: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, and Internal Affairs Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev,” a statement from Morrison’s office said. 

“It is exceedingly rare to designate a head of state and reflects the depth of our concerns. President Putin joins a very small group that includes Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mu'ammar Gaddafi of Libya, and Bashar al-Assad of Syria,” it continued. 

The Australian government has also committed to providing lethal and non-lethal military equipment, medical supplies, and financial assistance to support Ukraine, as well as contributing US $3 million to NATO’s Trust Fund for Ukraine. 

“Details of Australia’s contribution of lethal military equipment are being worked through with our partners and will be announced soon,” Morrison's office said. 

The Morrison government had previously only committed to sending non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine. 

Australia has now sanctioned more than 350 Russian individuals and 13 Belarusian individuals and entities including Belarusian Minister of Defence Viktor Khrenin, since Russia invaded Ukraine last week. 

The US, along with the European Commission (EC), France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and Canada, announced on Saturday they would expel certain Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security financial network that facilities the smooth and rapid transfer of money globally. 

On Monday, Morrison’s office said Australia would “take complementary steps as required,” to block Russia’s access to SWIFT. 

6:44 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Ukraine claims successful drone attacks against Russian forces

From Tim Lister in Kyiv

(Twitter/Ukrainian Armed Forces)
(Twitter/Ukrainian Armed Forces)

The Ukrainian military has claimed successful attacks by its Turkish-made force of drones against Russian forces.

On Sunday, the Armed Forces of Ukraine released footage showing the destruction of armor by a drone, and said it was carried out against a Russian BUK surface-to-air missile system.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief, said the drone attack took place near the town of Malyn, 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) northwest of Kyiv.

The Ukrainian government began receiving the Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey last year.

6:28 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

UN Security Council members must keep Russia accountable for invading Ukraine, US Ambassador to UN says

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States' ambassador to the United Nations, is seen at center while casting a vote at UN Headquarters on Sunday.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States' ambassador to the United Nations, is seen at center while casting a vote at UN Headquarters on Sunday. (Seth Wenig/AP)

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the UN Security Council has taken a critical step in holding Russia accountable for invading Ukraine.

The Security Council has taken an important step forward toward that accountability. For the first time in decades, it has called for an Emergency Special Session in the General Assembly," Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement Sunday.

Thomas-Greenfield said President Vladimir Putin put Russia's nuclear forces on high alert Sunday morning, “even though he is invading a country with no nuclear weapons and is under no threat from NATO, a defensive alliance that will not fight in Ukraine.”

“These are issues that affect all Member States. And now, in the General Assembly, they can all make their voices heard on Russia’s war of choice,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “We will then vote on a resolution that will hold Russia to account for its indefensible actions and for its violations of the UN Charter.

“We are alarmed by the mounting reports of civilian casualties, videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally a lethal weaponry into Ukraine, and the widespread destruction of civilian facilities like residences, schools, and hospitals,” the US Ambassador to the UN said.

Thomas-Greenfield said those member states that are sitting safely in “this hallowed hall” have a moral responsibility to react to Russia’s actions in Ukraine by providing humanitarian aid and military support.

6:13 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

4,000 US Army troops deployed in Europe have tour of duty extended

From CNN's Barbara Starr

More than 4,000 US Army troops who were deployed to Europe on a temporary basis will now have their tour of duty extended -- likely for several weeks -- as part of the US effort to reassure eastern European allies during the current crisis in Ukraine.

The 1st Armored Brigade Combat team of the 1st Infantry Division had been scheduled to return to the US next month after a nine-month tour in Europe. But the team will now stay and continue training and deterrence missions with nations that could include Poland, Romania and the Baltics.

"I don't want to speculate on a timeline, but be assured it will only be for as long as they are needed," John Tomassi, a spokesman for the Army in Europe, told CNN in an email.

In addition to the brigade, there are additional support troops that will be extended. For several years, the army has regularly rotated combat brigades, along with the armored vehicles in and out of Europe, to help maintain a US military presence.

"The deployment of ready, combat-credible US forces to Europe in support US Army Europe and Africa is evidence of the strong and unremitting US commitment to NATO and Europe," Tomassi said in a statement confirming the details.
"As we continually assess changes in the strategic and operational environment, select units have been extended to provide the forces needed to augment our NATO allies and partners. The units that have been extended provide unique skills and reinforce our role of supporting our NATO allies and partners capable, ready and resilient forces. While we understand the toll this extension takes on not only our soldiers, but also their families, we as a nation must remain committed to the security of Europe. Our presence reinforces our ironclad commitment to NATO, assures our allies and deters future aggression."
8:54 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

UK will provide additional $53 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, prime minister says

From CNN's Lauren Kent and Niamh Kennedy in London

The United Kingdom will provide an additional $53 million (£40 million) in humanitarian aid to Ukraine amid the Russian invasion of the country, according to the UK Prime Minister's office. 

The additional aid was granted following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's discussion with his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, and meetings with Ukrainian community leaders in London over the weekend.

The funding will help "aid agencies respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation, creating a lifeline for Ukrainians with access to basic necessities and medical supplies such as medicines, syringes, dressings and wound care packs," according to the news release. 

During their conversation on Saturday evening, Zelensky informed Johnson of "the critical need for humanitarian assistance as people are forced to flee their homes and seek safety," the news release said. 

As concerns mount amongst Ukrainians living in the UK, Johnson said Sunday "any person settled in the UK will be able to bring their Ukrainian immediate family members to join them here." 

Johnson stressed in the statement the UK "will not turn our backs in Ukraine’s hour of need," adding this latest package "brings the total amount of UK Government aid pledged to Ukraine this year to £140 million," which equals $186 million.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added the funding would help Ukraine "tackle what is becoming a humanitarian crisis."