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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4:40 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Zelensky agrees to talk with Russia, but rejects Belarus as the meeting place

From CNN’s Victoria Butenko and Ivana Kottasová in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would be willing to hold talks with Russia but rejected the Russian proposal for a meeting to be held in Belarus, a staging ground for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk about a meeting between Ukraine and Russia that might end this war and bring the peace back to us. Quite often [Minsk] is mentioned as the place for these negotiations," Zelensky said in an address posted on the presidency website on Sunday morning. 

"The location was not chosen by [Ukraine] nor by [Belarus]. It was chosen by the Russian leadership."

Belarus has played a key role in Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russian troops invaded through the Belarus border with support from Belarus' government, according to Ukrainian officials. The Biden administration has sanctioned nine Belarusian defense firms for their support of the invasion. 

Addressing Belarus directly, Zelensky said: “If there were no aggressive actions from your territory, we could talk in Minsk, your city. When you were neutral, we talked in Minsk. That’s why we’re not talking in Minsk now."

In 2015, Ukrainian and Russian officials met in the Belarus capital to draw up the Minsk Agreements, which included a fragile ceasefire in two areas of Ukraine taken over by pro-Russian separatists the year before.

"Of course we want peace and want to meet. We want to end the war. Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul and Baku were offered to Russia. Any other cities are fine with us as long as there are no missiles flying from this country,” Zelensky said. 

4:47 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Ukraine's Zelensky calls on "citizens of world" to join in fight against Russia 

From CNN's Olga Voitovich in Lviv and Ivana Kottasova in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation on February 27.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation on February 27. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is calling for people around the world to join the fight against Russia.

In a statement on Sunday, he accused the Russian army of killing civilians and praised Ukrainians for having the courage to defend themselves.

"Ukrainians have manifested the courage to defend their homeland and save Europe and its values from a Russian onslaught. This is not just Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules and peaceful coexistence," Zelensky said.

Addressing "all citizens of the world, friends of Ukraine, peace and democracy," Zelensky said: "Anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals."

The statement added that those who wish to join should contact the Defense Attache of the Embassy of Ukraine in their countries.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also echoed the call, tweeting Sunday:

"Foreigners willing to defend Ukraine and world order as part of the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, I invite you to contact foreign diplomatic missions of Ukraine in your respective countries. Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin, too."

3:21 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Russia claims two southern cities "completely blocked" by Russian troops

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

The Russian military claimed advances around the southern Ukrainian cities of Kherson and Berdyansk, a Russian Ministry of Defense statement on Sunday said.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian MOD spokesperson, said Kherson and Berdyansk "were completely blocked" by Russian forces.

He also claimed the southern city of Henichesk and the Chornobayivka (Chernobayevka) airfield near Kherson had also been brought under control.

CNN could not immediately verify those claims. 

Kherson has been at the center of a fierce battle for a strategic bridge, with days of fighting. When a CNN team arrived in Kherson on Thursday night, Russian tanks were in the streets and jets were flying low overhead, terrifying residents.

Counter claims: The claims come amid reports Russia is making significantly slower progress than Kremlin military planners had first anticipated.

According to an assessment issued by Britain’s Ministry of Defense late Saturday, Ukrainian troops remain high-motivated and able to hold key positions.

Russia is also facing unexpected difficulties supplying its forces, and is experiencing heavier losses in personnel, armor and aircraft than expected, two senior United States officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

Claims of surrender: The Russian statement also claimed, without evidence, there was a "mass refusal of Ukrainian military personnel to continue hostilities." 

Konashenkov said a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile regiment surrendered in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, and that 471 Ukrainian servicemen were captured.

Russian state television has frequently shown footage of captured Ukrainian servicemembers, some of whom are shown signing documents pledging to quit hostilities.

4:51 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

BREAKING: Fighting breaks out in Ukraine’s second largest city

From Ivana Kottasova and Sophie Jeong

Ukrainian Armed Forces shared video on their social media accounts which they say shows Russian vehicles set on fire in Kharkiv.
Ukrainian Armed Forces shared video on their social media accounts which they say shows Russian vehicles set on fire in Kharkiv. (Armed Forces of Ukraine)

Street fighting broke out in the center of Kharkiv as Russian troops entered Ukraine’s second largest city, Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration said Sunday. 

Synehubov urged residents of the eastern city to stay in shelters and not to travel anywhere. Russian vehicles entered the city of Kharkiv on Sunday, he said.

"The Russian enemy's vehicles advanced into the city of Kharkiv. Including the central part of the city. Warning! Do not leave your shelters!" Governor Synyehubov said in a Facebook post Sunday.
"The Armed Forces of Ukraine are eliminating the enemy. Civilians are asked not to go out in the streets."

Kharkiv, with a population of about 1.4 million people, sits less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Russian border and was approached by Russian forces shortly after the invasion started on Thursday.

Ukrainian forces have managed to deter Russian troops from entering the city for the past three days, but Synehubov said this has now changed, with fighting taking place at the heart of the city. 

2:48 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Russian delegation arrives in Belarus for potential talks, state media reports

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

A Russian delegation has arrived in Belarus for notional talks with Ukrainian representatives, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti.

Peskov said the delegation included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and other departments, including the presidential administration, RIA reported.

"We will be ready to start these negotiations in Gomel [Homiel]," Peskov said, according to RIA.

The Kremlin has continued to put out messaging that Russia would send representatives to the Belarusian capital of Minsk to talk with Kyiv, despite its military's continued and unprovoked assault on Ukraine.

The Kremlin has claimed previously the Ukrainian side had countered with a proposal to meet in Warsaw and then dropped contact.

Top Ukrainian officials and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have expressed willingness to talk peace with Russia.

2:33 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

What is SWIFT and why are some countries planning to expel Russia from it?

The White House, along with several EU nations, announced on Saturday the expulsion of certain Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security network connecting thousands of financial institutions around the world.

But what exactly is SWIFT and how will it impact Russia?

SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. It was founded in 1973 to replace the telex and is now used by over 11,000 financial institutions to send secure messages and payment orders. With no globally accepted alternative, it is essential plumbing for global finance.

Removing Russia from SWIFT would make it nearly impossible for financial institutions to send money in or out of the country, delivering a sudden shock to Russian companies and their foreign customers — especially buyers of oil and gas exports denominated in US dollars.

SWIFT is based in Belgium and governed by a board consisting of 25 people. SWIFT, which describes itself as a “neutral utility,” is incorporated under Belgian law and must comply with EU regulations.

What happens if Russia is removed?

There is precedent for removing a country from SWIFT.

SWIFT unplugged Iranian banks in 2012 after they were sanctioned by the EU over the country’s nuclear program. Iran lost almost half of its oil export revenue and 30% of foreign trade following the disconnection, according to experts.

The United States and Germany have the most to lose if Russia is disconnected, because their banks are the most frequent SWIFT users in communicating with Russian banks, according to Maria Shagina, a visiting fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Senior Russian lawmakers have responded by saying that shipments of oil, gas and metals to Europe would stop if Russia is expelled.

Has SWIFT commented?

In a statement, SWIFT said it is a "neutral global cooperative" and "any decision to impose sanctions on countries or individual entities rests solely with the competent government bodies and applicable legislators."

"We are aware of the joint statement by the leaders of the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States in which they state they will implement new measures in the coming days with respect to Russian banks. We are engaging with European authorities to understand the details of the entities that will be subject to the new measures and we are preparing to comply upon legal instruction," the statement said.

Read more here.

2:14 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Poland to provide train to transport wounded from Ukraine

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen

Poland will provide a special train to transport the wounded from Ukraine to various hospitals in Warsaw, an official said on Saturday.

"Poland does not forget about aid for Ukraine. We are starting a train for the wounded who suffered as a result of Russia's military operations against Ukraine," Stanisław Żaryn, spokesperson for the minister of special services coordinator, said in a tweet.

1:35 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

France to send fuel and defensive equipment to Ukraine 

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

France will send fuel supplies to Ukraine along with defensive equipment to support the country’s resistance to the Russian invasion, the Élysée Palace said in a statement Saturday following a partial meeting of national defense council. 

The statement gave no further detail on the defensive equipment, but an Elysée source told journalists earlier Saturday that this could include anti-tank weapons. 

The national defense council also agreed to freeze the financial assets of Russians targeted by sanctions and announced measures to “combat propaganda from influencers and the Russian media on European soil,” the statement said.

No details were given on these measures. 

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a “strengthening of economic and financial sanctions” in line with the European Union and the US, per the statement. 

1:06 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Australia to boost support and help supply lethal military equipment to Ukraine

From CNN's Wayne Chang

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks with the media outside the St. Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Sydney on Sunday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks with the media outside the St. Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Sydney on Sunday. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Australia will work with NATO members to supply weapons to Ukraine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Sunday. 

The move to step up support comes after the Prime Minister said on Friday Australia would provide "non-lethal" military equipment and medical supplies,

"We are already providing significant support in terms of non-lethal aid, but I've just spoken with the defense minister, and we'll be seeking to provide whatever support we can for lethal aid through our NATO partners, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom," Morrison said on the sidelines of a church service for the Australian Ukrainian community. 
"[Our NATO partners] are already providing support in these areas and we will be assisting them with what they are doing."

Morrison also said Australia has expedited visa processing of Ukrainians seeking to enter Australia and will provide more humanitarian aid in the near future, describing it as a "top priority."

"Our focus is what's occurring in Ukraine right now and providing the immediate relief to those who would be coming across borders as hundreds of thousands of people are becoming displaced and the world community will work together on all of those issues. But Australia will be very prepared to take more and more and more as we have with Afghanistan," Morrison said.