February 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Rob Picheta, Ed Upright, Maureen Chowdhury, Jason Kurtz, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 1, 2022
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12:52 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Mayor of a southern Ukrainian city warns of incoming Russian troops

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Odessa

The mayor of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolayiv has written on Facebook, urging civilians to come out and “resist” as a “significant” amount of Russian armor is reported to be headed towards them. 

Sirens are reportedly going off in the city.

1:12 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Twitter will label all content that contains links to Russian state media, company says

From CNN’s Brian Fung

(Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images)
(Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Twitter will now label all content that contains links to Russian state media and will demote that content algorithmically, the company said, as tech platforms have come under greater pressure to respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

The move goes beyond previous steps that Twitter has taken in years past to label Russian state media accounts on the platform.

Since the invasion began, the "overwhelming majority" of Russian state media content appearing on Twitter has been shared by individuals, not the state media organizations' own accounts, the company said. Over the past week, individuals have shared more than 45,000 tweets per day containing media from Russian state outlets. 

Monday's change will mean that any link shared by a user to a Russian state media organization's website will automatically receive a label, warning viewers that the tweet "links to a Russia state-affiliated media website."

 "In addition to the label, we will reduce the visibility and amplification of this content site-wide, no matter who it comes from," said Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy. "This means that Tweets sharing state media content won’t be amplified — they won’t appear in Top Search and won’t be recommended by Twitter."

Content from state media outlets of other countries will also receive the same treatment "in the coming weeks," Kennedy added.

More context: Twitter has not permitted advertising by state-run media outlets since 2019, and the company suspended all ads in Ukraine and Russia last week amid the unfolding crisis to prioritize public safety information. 

The move follows requests by government leaders for tech giants to clamp down on pro-Russian propaganda, including by applying algorithmic controls that limit the amplification and recommendation of Russian-backed media.

See how other social media companies are responding to Russia's invasion here.

12:55 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Analysis: A nuclear Belarus? What the referendum means to the rest of the world.

Analysis from CNN's Nathan Hodge

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko show in this February 18, 2022 file photo.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko show in this February 18, 2022 file photo. (Sergey Guneev/Sputnik/AP)

On Sunday, Russia’s close ally Belarus held a referendum, the result of which – in theory – opens the door for the former Soviet republic to host nuclear weaponry. 

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, newly independent states in addition to Russia appeared on the map with nuclear weapons stationed on their territory: Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The prospect of three new countries armed with nuclear weapons alarmed world leaders, and with the signing of the Budapest Memorandum in 1994, the three agreed to give up their nuclear arsenals in exchange for security guarantees.

The vote in a referendum to approve a new constitution allows Belarus to shed its non-nuclear status. But does that mean it can acquire nuclear weapons? After all, the country does not have a weapons complex for designing, building or testing nuclear weaponry. 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko seems to be hinting at something else: stationing Russian warheads on Belarusian soil. 

Addressing journalists at a polling station in Minsk on Sunday, Lukashenko said he could ask his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to “return the nuclear weapons” Belarus formally gave up when his country signed up to the Budapest Memorandum.

"If America, or you France, two nuclear powers, start transferring nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, on our borders... I will go to Putin so that he will return to me the nuclear weapons that I, without any special conditions, gave to them,” Lukashenko said. 

Poland and Lithuania do not possess nuclear weapons.

It’s unclear what plans Russia may have, in practice. But it’s worth noting that, days before Russia started its invasion of Ukraine, Lukashenko sat in the Kremlin situation center with Putin to observe nuclear drills, watching the launch of a series of missiles at different test ranges. 

There are several layers of irony in the nuclear rhetoric over Belarus. In stating his case for the invasion of Ukraine, Putin has made a baseless claim about supposed Ukrainian aspirations to acquire nuclear weaponry, something the Kremlin leader cast as an existential threat. 

And it’s worth remembering that Ukraine gave up its own nuclear stockpile in exchange for security guarantees to its territorial integrity from several countries – including Russia – that Putin has now broken.

4:33 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

White House wants to "reduce the rhetoric and deescalate" after Putin's nuclear deterrence move

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

White House press secretary Jen Psaki shown in this February 23, 2022 file photo in Washington, D.C.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki shown in this February 23, 2022 file photo in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Biden administration wants to “reduce the rhetoric and deescalate” after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s deterrence forces – which include nuclear arms – be placed on high alert, the White House said Monday. 

“We've seen this pattern from President Putin over the course of the last several months and even before then, where he manufactures the threat in order to justify a greater aggressive action,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC.

“The Russians – President Putin included as the leader of Russia – have committed to taking steps to reduce nuclear threats," she added. “Everybody knows that that is not a war that can be won." 

Psaki said the US has its “own preparations” and “own ability and capacity to defend the United States,” but has not changed alert levels. 

“We have not changed our own alerts, and we have not changed our own assessment in that front, but we also need to be very clear eyed about his own use of threats,” she said. “What we want to do right now is reduce the rhetoric and deescalate.”

The administration is also doubling down on the decision not to use US troops to create a no-fly zone in Ukraine, calling it “not a good idea” and "not something the President wants to do."

The implementation of a no-fly zone by the US military “would essentially mean the US military would be shooting down planes, Russian planes," Psaki said. “That is definitely escalatory that would potentially put us into a place where we're in a military conflict with Russia.

US President Joe Biden will talk about the situation in Ukraine during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, she confirmed.

Biden would talk about “the fact that the President has built a coalition of countries around the world to stand up to Russian aggression, to stand up to President Putin, to put in place crippling sanctions, that will be a part of what people will hear in the speech. That wouldn't have been the case three months ago,” she said. 

“If we look back at history,” she continued, “President Obama gave a speech during the worst financial crisis of our lifetime. President Bush gave a speech shortly after the worst terrorist attack on our homeland ever. It's always about expressing how you're going to lead the country.” 

She said there would be new policy proposals in the speech.

11:48 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Explosions heard near Kyiv

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

Several large detonations were heard around 6:40 p.m. local time Monday to the east of the Kyiv's city center.

They were the largest explosions heard Monday.

They were followed by sirens going off across the city.


12:40 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Talks end between Russia and Ukraine

From CNN's Seb Shukla and Tim Lister

Russian and Ukrainian talks have ended in Belarus and the two parties have returned to their capitals for consultations, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's adviser, Mikhaylo Podolyak, told reporters after the talks.

"Ukrainian and Russian delegations held the first round of negotiations. Their main goal was to discuss ceasefire and the end of combat actions on the territory of Ukraine. The parties have determined the topics where certain decisions were mapped out. In order for these decisions to be implemented as roadmap, the parties are returning for consultations to their capitals. The parties discussed holding another round of negotiations where these decisions can develop," he said Monday.

In the last few moments, three large explosions were heard in Kyiv.

11:59 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

UK will ban all Russian vessels from its ports

From CNN’s Anna Cooban in London   

The UK will ban all Russian vessels from entering its ports, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday.

"Today I've written to all UK ports asking them not to provide access to any Russian flagged, registered, owned, controlled, chartered or operated vessels,” Shapps said in a tweet.

Shapps shared a letter addressed to all UK ports stating that the "Department for Transport does not consider it appropriate for Russian vessels to continue to enter UK ports,” after its' “unprovoked, premeditated” attack against Ukraine.

“The maritime sector is fundamental to international trade, and we must play out part in restricting Russia’s economic interests and holding the Russian government to account,” Shapps continued. 

Shapps said legislation would follow to implement the change.

12:44 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

US security assistance to Ukraine has arrived within the last day, senior defense official says

From Oren Libermann and Michael Conte

US security assistance to Ukraine has continued to arrive, including within the last day, a senior defense official said Monday morning.

Without detailing exactly what type of assistance is going in, the official said it includes both ground and airborne defensive capabilities. 

Over the weekend, the same official said that ground convoys and routes are options the US has evaluated for sending in assistance in light of the contested airspace over Ukraine.

In the period before the invasion, the US had sent in Javelin anti-armor missiles and approved the transfer of Stringer anti-aircraft missiles from NATO allies to Ukraine.

The US has not seen any efforts by Russian forces to “interdict” security assistance the US is sending to Ukraine, according to the senior defense official, despite Russian efforts to capture the airports around Kyiv.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly characterized the US' assistance involving Stringer anti-aircraft missiles.

11:40 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

US defense official says Russians "causing civilian harm" and "striking civilian targets"

From CNN's Michael Callahan

Russian forces are “causing civilian harm and they are striking civilian targets,” a senior US defense official told reporters Monday, but it is unclear “whether it’s intentional and directed,” the official added. 

“We’re not making apologies here for the Russians, we obviously see that residential areas and civilian targets are being struck, there’s no question about that, you can see with the, just in plain sight, in terms of the imagery that’s coming out of Ukraine,” the official said. 

But as for “whether it’s intentional and directed, we’re just not in a position to be able to confirm that,” the official added.