Zelensky accuses Russia of war crimes in bombardment of Kharkiv
From CNN's Oleksandra Ochman and Tim Lister
In a late night address Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that in five days, 56 missile strikes and 113 cruise missiles were launched in Ukraine by Russian forces.
He added, “Today, Russian forces brutally fired on Kharkiv from jet artillery. It was clearly a war crime.”
"Kharkiv is a peaceful city, there are peaceful residential areas, no military facilities. Dozens of eyewitness accounts prove that this is not a single false volley, but deliberate destruction of people: the Russians knew where they were shooting."
"There will definitely be an international tribunal for this crime — it's a violation of all conventions. No one in the world will forgive you for killing peaceful Ukrainian people," he said.
4:30 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022
Biden and key allies discussed aid to Ukraine and penalties on Russia in call today
From CNN's DJ Judd
The White House said US President Joe Biden and world leaders “recognized the bravery of the Ukrainian people in the face of Russian aggression and discussed their continued support to Ukraine, including security, economic, and humanitarian assistance,” during a secure call Monday.
Joining Biden on the call, according to the White House, were:
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
European Council President Charles Michel
French President Emmanuel Macron
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Polish President Andrzej Duda
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
The White House said the group “also discussed their coordinated efforts to impose severe costs and consequences to hold Russia accountable while working to maintain global economic stability, including with regard to energy prices.”
4:44 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022
EU adds Putin spokesperson Peskov and head of Russian oil firm to its list of sanctioned individuals
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London
The European Union has included a pair of key individuals among its latest list of sanctioned persons.
These two men are:
Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin
Igor Sechin, CEO of the Russian oil firm, Rosneft
In a press release published Monday, the European Council said it's adding a further 26 persons and one entity "to the list of persons, entities and bodies subject to restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."
Additional restrictive measures — including the freezing of assets and the institution of travel bans — were also placed on:
Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who co-owns the Russian holding company USM Holdings
Russia's second-largest mobile phone operator, Megafon
Bankers Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman
The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell said in the press release that with these sanctions the EU is "targeting all who are having a significant economic role in supporting Putin’s regime and benefit financially from the system."
Borrell added that the sanctions will "expose the wealth of Putin’s elite" and ensure that those "who enable the invasion of Ukraine will pay a price for their action."
This follows a host of new measures imposed by the EU on Russia last week, which included a ban on transactions with the Russian Central Bank and a ban on overflight of the EU airspace amongst other things.
In total, restrictive measures have now been imposed on 680 individuals and 53 entities, the EU said.
4:47 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022
White House: US has taken steps to address any impact on oil market that could occur from Russia's invasion
From CNN's DJ Judd
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the US has taken steps “to address any impact on the global markets, global oil markets, that we expect could happen, expect at the time could happen, and could continue to happen as a result of President Putin’s invasion.”
Though she declined to weigh in on specific details, telling CNN’s Phil Mattingly doing so “wouldn't be constructive to our overarching objectives,” Psaki cited officials’ recent visit to Saudi Arabia, telling Phil “there has been an ongoing discussion about steps that we can all take as a global community to address any volatility in the market.”
She also said that the decision to sanction some of Russia’s largest banks and back expulsion from SWIFT was part of an effort to ensure actions were “maximizing the impact on President Putin, the Russian elite, the economy, while minimizing it on the global markets and the American people.”
“I mean, even if you look at the impact on the energy sector, you know, we have we have taken steps, we have not taken some steps on energy sanctions, in part because we weighed that,” Psaki said. “That doesn't mean that they're off the table, they remain on the table, but Europeans for example, are very concerned about further price spikes on gas.”
Some more context:Oil prices surged above $100 per barrel after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, piling pressure on a global economy already reeling from rampant inflation. Russia is the world’s No. 2 oil producer and a major exporter of natural gas. Supply disruptions could drive retail prices higher, making it more expensive for people around the world to fuel their cars and for Europeans to heat their homes. Gasoline prices are already at record levels in parts of Europe.
“So sanctioning energy would affect Russia's income stream, certainly that would be a reason to do it, but would also have extreme consequences on the world energy markets, particularly for our allies in Europe,” Psaki acknowledged Monday, adding the administration has “additional steps we could take, but we consider all of those factors as we make determinations."
4:03 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022
US has asked 12 Russian UN diplomats to leave the country, Deputy Ambassador confirms
From CNN’s Richard Roth
The United States has asked 12 Russian United Nations diplomats to leave the country due to their alleged engagement in “activities that were not in accordance with their responsibilities and obligations as diplomats,” Ambassador Richard Mills, Deputy Representative of the United States to the United Nations, said during a UN Security Council meeting Monday afternoon.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia responded by saying Mills’ explanation of the expulsions was “not satisfactory.”
The US Mission to the UN also said in a statement that the 12 Russian diplomats were “intelligence operatives…who have abused their privileges of residency in the U.S. by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”
“We are taking this action in accordance with the headquarters agreement. Today’s action has been in the works for several months,” US Mission spokesperson Olivia Dalton said.
Nebenzia first announced the news of the expulsions during an earlier press briefing at the UN Monday afternoon. He said he did not know which 12 diplomats were among those asked to leave, but said US officials visited the Russian Mission to the UN and delivered a letter demanding that they leave the country by next Monday, March 7.
“I’ve just received information that the US authorities have undertaken another hostile action against the Russian Mission to the United Nations grossly violating their commitments on the host country agreement that they undertook,” Nebenzia told reporters. “They just visited the Russian Mission and gave us a note prescribing us to do what they demand.”
CNN has also reached out to the State Department for more information.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Pooja Salhotra contributed to this report.
4:14 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022
UK communications regulator launches 15 investigations into Kremlin-backed news channel
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy
The UK's communication regulator is launching 15 investigations into Russia Today (RT), the Kremlin-backed news channel.
The announcement same Monday via a statement.
Ofcom — the UK's communications regulator — said it had "observed a significant increase in the number of programs on the RT service that warrant investigation under our Broadcasting Code."
Last week, UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries asked Ofcom to review RT's operation in Britain. The regulator replied to Dorries saying it had “stepped up our oversight" in light of the "serious nature of the crisis in Ukraine."
The investigations "relate to 15 editions of the hourly News program broadcast on RT on 27 February 2022 between 05:00 and 19:00 inclusive" and will be – "expedited, given the severity and urgency of the current crisis," Ofcom said Monday.
Ofcom's Chief Executive Melanie Dawes added that "given the serious, ongoing situation in Ukraine, we will be concluding our investigations into RT as a matter of urgency."
The regulator acknowledged that "when reporting on an armed conflict" it can be "difficult for broadcasters to verify information and events" but that it is "imperative that they make every effort to do so."
3:57 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022
International Criminal Court opens investigation into Russian invasion of Ukraine
The International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, will open an investigation into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “rapidly as possible,” ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan said in a statement Monday.
Following a preliminary examination into the situation, Khan said he confirmed that there is a reasonable basis to “believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine.”
3:48 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022
Russia will continue to ensure realization of its national interests despite sanctions, foreign ministry says
From CNN’s Alla Eshchenko and Josh Pennington
In a statement Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry lashed out against the EU's plans to provide arms to Ukraine, adding that Russia will continue to ensure the realization of its national interests despite sanctions.
“EU citizens and structures involved in supplying lethal weapons and fuel and lubricants to the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be responsible for any consequences of such actions in the context of the ongoing special military operation. They cannot fail to understand the degree of danger of the consequences,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement read.
The statement went on to diminish Western sanctions, saying that Russia will continue to ensure the realization of its national interest.
“Another myth that had been propagated by the EU in the past — that their unilateral restrictions, which are illegitimate under international law, are not directed against the Russian people — has been finally dispelled. Brussels functionaries, who until recently portrayed themselves as our country's ‘strategic partner’, are not hiding any longer: they intend to inflict maximum damage on Russia, hit its weak points, seriously destroy its economy and suppress its economic growth,” the statement read.
The statement continued: “We want to assure you it will not. The actions of the European Union will not go unanswered. Russia will continue to ensure the realization of its vital national interests without regard to sanctions and their threats. It is time for Western countries to understand that their undivided dominance in the global economy is long a thing of the past."
3:11 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022
Russia well behind its own schedule for Ukraine invasion
From CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh in Odessa
A western official told CNN there was a “failure on the first day to destroy Ukraine’s air defenses” by Russia and that it was “well behind the schedule it set,” for the invasion. Russia has about half the forces it massed on Ukraine’s borders “forward and operating in Ukraine,” the source added.
Earlier on Monday a senior US defense official said that it is their assessment Russia has committed nearly 75% of its military power that it had arrayed around Ukraine ahead of the invasion.
The official said they were concerned with the “risks that come with a lack of Russian progress” especially the “use of rockets today and tube artillery — in Kyiv and Kharkiv — which risks being far more indiscriminate.”
The official said while there had been “some progress in the south” — with forces that come out of Crimea having some gains — “in other areas we have not seen a lot of progress in maneuver.”
The official declined to give a figure for Russian casualties but noted that in the first days Russia's defense ministry denied having any, but later had to admit to some. They said this was “what we would assess to be a significant number of casualties. Their ability to hide that is over. The impact of this operation will be seen and felt back in Russia itself.”