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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3:11 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Nearly 6,000 detained across Russia as anti-war protests enter fourth day, monitoring site says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow

Russian authorities have detained a total of 5,794 people for participating in unsanctioned anti-war protests across the country, since the Kremlin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, independent monitoring site OVD-Info said on Sunday. 

As of 3 p.m. ET, 2,650 people had been detained for protesting in 51 cities throughout the country, OVD-Info also reported, and 1,225 were detained in Moscow alone. 

Under Russian law, large demonstrations require protesters apply for a permit, which has to be submitted no more than 15 but no less than 10 days before the event. Heavy fines — and in some cases even prison time — can be imposed on those who protest without a permit. Individuals are allowed to stage “single pickets,” which are solo protests but it is not unheard of for people to be detained for those as well.  

On Thursday, Russia’s Investigative Committee warned that participation in any anti-war protest was illegal. It also said that offenses could be entered on participants’ criminal records which would “leave a mark on the person’s future”

3:09 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

French foreign ministry warns citizens to leave Russia and advises against any travel to Belarus

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

France’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs has “strongly recommended” French visitors to Russia to leave the country “without delay,” following the European Union decision to ban Russian and Belarusian airlines from European airspace, according to a Sunday update to official French travel guidelines to Russia. 

A similar update on the website Sunday “formally discouraged” any travel to Belarus. 

The foreign ministry said that “most European [airline] companies, including Air France” suspended routes into and over Russia beginning on Sunday evening due to the EU’s closure of its airspace to Russian aircraft and airlines. 

Due to the increased restrictions, France’s foreign ministry recommended that French people "passing through Russia (tourists, visitors, students, professionals on work trips) make arrangements to leave the country without delay by existing air links,” the travel advice said. 

“It is also advisable to postpone any trip to Russia.”

In the context of military tensions between Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the closure of Belarusian airspace, “French people in Belarus are encouraged to leave the country immediately by road, via border crossing with Lithuania, Poland or Latvia,” the ministry travel update said. 

2:53 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Portugal closes airspace to Russian airlines

From CNN's Mia Alberti and Niamh Kennedy

Portugal has closed its airspace to Russian airlines in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

The Portuguese Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced the closure in a tweet on Sunday, saying it was being taken "in conjunction with our European partners and in response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine."

The country will also equip Ukraine with "military equipment such as waistcoats, helmets, night vision goggles, grenades, various ammunition, portable radios and G3 automatic rifles," the ministry tweeted.

Portugal joins a slew of European nations who have announced closing their airspaces to Russia, including Germany, Italy, France and Spain.

7:33 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Videos show Ukrainian forces repel Russian advance towards possible strategic airfield in northeast Kharkiv

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Katie Polglase, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Tim Lister and Josh Pennington

Videos uploaded to social media are giving a rare view of clashes between Russian and Ukrainian military forces on the streets of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine.

Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, has been the target of frequent Russian military strikes since the invasion began early Thursday morning. Now it's the site of intense street battles as the Russian military attempts to win control of the city.

One sequence of videos uploaded to social media show an attempt by a Russian unit to advance towards an important airfield and arms factory in the northeast of Kharkiv. The airfield at the Kharkiv State Aircraft Manufacturing Company is small — just a single runway — but might be a useful bridgehead for the Russians.

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the videos.

The first video, taken by a resident, shows a convoy of Russian troops surrounding military vehicles, creeping along a roadway that ends near the airfield.

"There are two [military vehicles] as far as I can see," someone says in the video. "A third one is crawling through with infantry who are wielding automatic rifles." 

Suddenly, gunfire is heard and seen. 

A Russian soldier is seen quickly kneeling and firing a shoulder-fired rocket towards the area where the gunfire appears to be coming from.

A second video, taken after the firefight, shows the military vehicles driving in reverse in an apparent retreat. The Russian troops are seen huddled behind their vehicles.

A Reuters journalist was at the location after the firefight and took video that showed one of the Russian military convoy vehicles abandoned and a significant amount of blood staining the snow on the ground. The Reuters journalist spoke with a resident, identified as Yevgeniy, who told them that at least one Russian soldier was killed.

"After we've killed this one, the others run away," Yevgeniy told Reuters, pointing to a bloody stain in the snow. "They were some 12-15 people. That's it...They won't take Kharkiv. They have run back to where they came from. They don't have good navigation you see. Nothing works for them. They came and were hiding behind the houses," Yevgeniy said.

Their efforts to retreat appear to have been stopped by another attack. A convoy of vehicles — the same type — is seen on fire in another video.

"And that's how we meet the b**** Russian army," someone is heard shouting in the video. "That's how it's going to be for each of them who come to our Kharkiv land."

It's not possible to be absolutely sure that the Russian trucks on fire are the same as those trying to reach the airport, but they are in the same location, are the same type, and bear the same markings.

Another video taken at the site of the abandoned military convoy — the vehicles are no longer on fire — shows Ukrainian troops engaging.

"Give it all to them," a voice yells repeatedly in the video. 

Amid the firefight, a Ukrainian soldier steps out from the wall and is seen firing a shoulder-fired rocket.

Later, another video shows Ukrainian troops around the convoy, appearing to rummage through the abandoned vehicles. Sporadic gunfire is heard and some Ukrainian forces move along a wall in the background. 

"Slava Ukraini," someone says in the video — "Glory to Ukraine."

"That's how we meet Russian world," another person said. "This will be the same with everyone who will come to stomp on our Kharkiv's lands! There you go with your Russian-Russian letters 'Z!' Everyone will get the same." 

2:38 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Air France suspends flights to Russia in light of situation in the region 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Martin Goillandeau

French national carrier, Air France has suspended its services to Russia in "light of the situation in the region."

"Taking account of the situation in the region, Air France has decided to suspend its service and flights over Russia from Feb. 27 until further notice," the airline said in an update posted on its website Sunday.

All Air France flights to and from Moscow and Saint Petersburg were suspended from midnight Sunday morning, the airline said. The airline also announced a temporary suspension of flights towards China, Korea, and Japan to give the airline time to study flight plan options avoiding the Russian airspace.

Clients affected by the measures were informed individually, the airline said. 

2:25 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

England will not play Russia in any international football matches "for the foreseeable future"

From CNN's Homero De La Fuente

English football’s governing body, the Football Association (FA), announced on Sunday that England will not play any matches against Russia “for the foreseeable future.” 

“Out of solidarity with Ukraine and to wholeheartedly condemn the atrocities being committed by the Russian leadership, The FA can confirm that we won’t play against Russia in any international fixtures for the foreseeable future. This includes any potential match at any level of senior, age group or para football,” the FA said in a statement on Sunday. 

Some context: England now join the Czech Republic, Poland, and Sweden in refusing to play in any potential football matches against Russia due to their invasion of Ukraine.

3:33 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

European Union takes further action to isolate Russia

From CNN's Jack Guy

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the European Commission in Brussels on Sunday, February 27.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the European Commission in Brussels on Sunday, February 27. Stephanie Lecocq/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Russia is facing universal condemnation and increased sanctions from Western powers over its unprovoked assault on Ukraine, and more moves were announced Sunday.

The European Union (EU) is closing its airspace to Russia, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“We are proposing a prohibition on all Russian-owned, Russian-registered and Russian-controlled aircraft. These aircraft will no more be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the European Union. This will apply to any plane,” von der Leyen said. 

“Our airspace will be closed to every Russian plane. And that includes the private jets of oligarchs too," she added.

The UK has also banned Russian private jets from its airspace on Friday.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell also announced a ban for Russian news outlets Russia Today and Sputnik.

Speaking in a joint news conference in Brussels on Sunday, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy announced that the bloc would ban the two outlets in a bid "to fight" Russian disinformation.

"Today we are taking a crucial step to turn off the tap for the Russian's information manipulation in Europe by banning Russia Today and Sputnik from broadcasting in the European Union," Borrell said. "We are killing the snake on its neck." 

And more than half of the central bank reserves of Russia will be blocked as part of new EU sanctions against the country, Borrell added. 

Measures against neighboring country, Belarus will also be "reinforced," Borrell said, in return for its role in "facilitating the Russian assault against Ukraine."

Von der Leyen also announced that the EU will provide finance to purchase weapons for Ukraine, adding that this is the first time the bloc has ever done so.

Borrell said the EU is doing so "because this war requires our engagement in order to support the Ukrainian army."

"We asked for SWIFT and we asked for arms and now we are delivering on both sides," the diplomat remarked.

2:20 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Ukrainian Americans express fear and anger as Russian troops take aim at Kyiv

From CNN's Alaa Elassar

Bohdan Andrukh was on his way to meet friends for dinner at a San Francisco restaurant last Wednesday when he received a phone call from his mother in Lviv.

She was crying; the sound of a nearby explosion had woken her. The war has begun, she told Andrukh, who was far from home and unable to help her find safety.

He did his best to assure her that everything would be alright, but in his heart knew that tragedy was fast approaching.

"I knew I was lying and I am way too helpless to make such promises but I had to," Andrukh, 26, told CNN. "She is mom, she should never cry unless it's tears of joy."

Like Andrukh, Ukrainian Americans across the United States are closely monitoring Russia's violent assault on Ukraine.

They fear for the lives of family and friends, worry the destruction will render their beloved country unrecognizable, and curse Russian President Vladimir Putin for instigating the conflict. Some also feel betrayed by Western governments, who they say abandoned Ukraine in its time of need.

Here's how they feel and what they want the world to know:

Mariya Soroka has not been able to stop thinking about her last visit to Ukraine.

On the last day of her trip, she spent the evening at a friend's "fairytale" home on the outskirts of Lviv, where she was surrounded by loved ones, delicious food, and stunning nature.

She recalls dancing in the garden and stargazing on the roof, consumed with joy and love for her homeland, culture and people.

Soroka, 33, was born in Yavoriv, but immigrated to the United States at the age of 15. Despite the many years she's lived away from Ukraine, she says no day goes by without her longing to return.

"What I love most about Ukraine is the people. And the food," Soroka told CNN. "I think a lot about Kyiv. It is so beautiful, home to amazing shops and concerts and streets and buildings full of history. Now I wonder when or if I'll ever see those places again."

Soroka learned of Russia's invasion following a dinner with friends at her apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her heart immediately shattered into pieces, she said.

"I asked my friends to pray. We held hands and we just prayed and prayed," Soroka said through tears. "An hour later we saw the news and I just kept trying to reach my dad [in Kyiv] but he wouldn't pick up. I stayed up all night, trying to hear his voice."

Eventually, she reached her father, who was safe but had decided against evacuating in order to let families with children leave first.

Soroka fears Ukraine's allies have abandoned it, but remains hopeful for a victory.

"My biggest fear is that the world is not going to do anything, that the war is going to continue and it's going to destroy my country and my people," she said. "But the spirit of the fight in Ukrainians is very strong. I don't think the Russians can fight as hard as we can, because goodness and justice is not on their side."

She also warns that if Ukraine falls, the impact could be felt across the world.

"You can't just say Ukraine is not my problem," Soroka said. "Right now Ukraine is fighting to keep the world order. And if the world leaders won't get involved in a serious way, a world war will be on their conscious."

Read more here.

2:13 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

More than half of central bank reserves of Russia will be blocked under new EU sanctions, top diplomat says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

More than half of the central bank reserves of Russia will be blocked as part of new EU sanctions against the country, the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell announced on Sunday.

Speaking alongside European Commission chief Ursula Von der Leyen in Brussels, Borrell said later on Sunday he would provide the political endorsement of the 27 EU member states for a new package of sanctions against Russia.

"With these measures, more than half of the central bank reserves of Russia will be blocked," Borrell said.

Under the package, "important Russian banks will be excluded from the SWIFT system," Von der Leyen told the news conference.

Measures against neighboring country Belarus will also be "reinforced," Borrell said, in return for its role in "facilitating the Russian assault against Ukraine."

Von der Leyen also announced that the EU will provide finance to purchase weapons for Ukraine, adding that this is the first time the bloc has ever done so.

Borrell said the EU is doing so "because this war requires our engagement in order to support the Ukrainian army."

"We asked for SWIFT and we asked for arms and now we are delivering on both sides," the diplomat remarked.

Some more context: SWIFT, the high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world, 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.

On Saturday, the White House, along with the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada, announced that they would expel certain Russian banks from SWIFT, pledging to "collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin."

Read more about SWIFT here.