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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10:36 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Analysis: All roads lead to Belarus — the origin of the 40+ mile long Russian convoy near Kyiv

Analysis from CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Satellite images show a Russian military convoy that has reached the outskirts of Kyiv is more than 40 miles long.
Satellite images show a Russian military convoy that has reached the outskirts of Kyiv is more than 40 miles long. (Maxar Technologies)

Dramatic satellite images released by Maxar Technologies on Monday evening showed a massive 40+ mile long convoy of Russian military vehicles snaking along roadways northwest of Kyiv. 

It’s easy to trace where those hundreds of tanks, towed artillery, armored and logistical vehicles came from. Just follow the roads.

In Ukraine, northwest of Kyiv, all roads lead to Belarus. The roadway and bridge at Chernobyl — the town, not the failed nuclear reactor — ends in Belarus. Every other major road northwest of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, ends in Belarus, which borders northern Ukraine.

Russian buildup of troops: For weeks prior to its invasion of Ukraine, Russia amassed its forces in Belarus.

Hundreds of Russian military vehicles, aircraft and helicopters were moved to the former Soviet state in order to participate in what the two allies described as joint exercises. But after the maneuvers ended, the Russian forces didn’t go home.

In fact, additional satellite imagery from Maxar showed that Russia continued to increase the amount of military vehicles, air power and weaponry in Belarus. From the city of Brest in the country's east, to Gomel in the west, Russian forces kept popping up at air bases, in towns and in even in fields on satellite images and social media.

Pontoon bridge: Satellite images even showed that Russia constructed a pontoon bridge across the Pripyat River in the greater Chernobyl exclusion zone, which spans Ukraine and Belarus. The day the invasion into Ukraine began, additional satellite images from Capella Space showed Russia began moving dozens of military vehicles across that bridge.

Military power: The sheer length of the convoy is massive and speaks to the amount of the military power the Russians have amassed to try and take Kyiv.

It also speaks to Belarus’ activity in supporting and carrying the invasion — and responsibility for it.

That military power could not have been amassed by the Russians without the permission, and assistance, of Belarus.

10:22 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Australia to send missiles to Ukraine as part of $50 million support package

From CNN’s Caitlin McGee 

Australia will send missiles as part of a $50 million package of lethal and non-lethal aid to help Ukraine repel Russian forces, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Morrison told a news conference Tuesday that anti-armor missiles are proving extraordinarily effective for Ukrainian forces.

"We are answering the call from President (Volodymyr) Zelensky: he said we need ammo, not a ride and that's exactly what we're doing... we'll provide 50 million US dollars to support Ukraine, lethal and non-lethal support... we're talking missiles, we're talking ammunition," Morrison said.

A further $25 million will go toward humanitarian support and helping international organizations meet the needs of people fleeing violence inside Ukraine, he said.

Tuesday's announcement follows a raft of measures by the Australian government to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, including placing sanctions on Russian individuals.

10:20 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko says Ukrainians are fighting for the country's democratic future

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko is a former world heavyweight boxing champion.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko is a former world heavyweight boxing champion. (CNN)

Vitali Klitschko, mayor of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that he is proud of Ukrainian citizens for defending their country and sees the battle ahead as a fight for its future.

Klitschko said Kyiv is under a "non-stop" attack by Russian troops and what he called "Russian aggression groups."

"We listen to explosions every hour during last night, all last night, the last four days. People are very nervous, they spend a lot of time in bunkers," he said.

Calling Ukrainian soldiers "heroes," Klitschko said he is proud of the country's army and civilians who have taken up arms to defend the capital.

"So many thousands of civilians come and build civilian defenses. People take the weapons and are ready to defend our homes, defend our families, defend our future and our country. And I am very proud," he said.
"We are ready to fight and ready to die for our home country, for our families because it's our home. It's our future and somebody wants to come into our home and steal our future from us."

Klitschko said he was "not ready" to answer how long Kyiv could hold out against the Russian invasion but added it could be a "long time."

In a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the mayor said Ukraine used to be part of the Soviet Union and it doesn't want Russia back.

"We see our future as a democratic, modern European country. That's it. No discussion. It's our goal. We're fighting for that. We're fighting for our country. We're fighting for our dream," he said.

Klitschko is a former heavyweight boxing champion known as “Dr. Ironfist” and has been mayor of Kyiv since 2014.

9:58 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Russian tennis stars speak out: "Stop the violence, stop the war"

Russian tennis players are calling for an end to their country's invasion of Ukraine.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a WTA veteran ranked No. 14 in the world and 2021 French Open finalist, said on Twitter she was not afraid to state her position: “Stop the violence, stop the war.” 

Daniil Medvedev, who became the world No. 1 in men’s singles on Monday, said he had "mixed emotions" about his feat.

“It’s a huge honor to take over this spot. I’m sure everyone can understand it comes with mixed emotions that it happens this week," he said on Twitter.

Anastasia Potapova, who was scheduled to play Ukrainian Elina Svitolina in the opening round of the WTA 250 event in Monterrey, Mexico, on Tuesday said professional athletes "are essentially becoming hostages of the current situation."

"Playing tennis is our choice and our dream, to which we go daily, practicing, and constantly trying to be better in our results. I’m sorry, but even though I am a stranger to politics, I am against grief, tears and war," she said.

Context: Svitolina said she will not play in the match Tuesday and refuses to play any Russian or Belarusian player, saying she wants tennis organizations to follow the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee to accept Russian or Belarusian nationals only as neutral athletes.

Andrey Rublev, who wrote “No War Please” on a camera at an ATP 500 event in Dubai and later went on to win the tournament, said on Twitter: “Now it’s not about tennis."

Meanwhile, American tennis player Amanda Anisimova, ranked No. 42, whose mother and late father were from Moscow said on Twitter there is “#nohumanity” and "no words for what is happening."

9:56 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Japan's Prime Minister: G7 and allies will urge international community to unite against Russia

From CNN’s Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at his office in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at his office in Tokyo on Tuesday. (Kyodo News/Sipa USA)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday the G7 nations will urge the international community to unite against Russia.

"It is important that all members of the international community respond resolutely to Russia's acts," Kishida told reporters in a news conference after a call with G7 leaders and allies.

Kishida said the G7 nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — and their partners had also agreed to help Ukrainian refugees following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As a Prime Minister hailing from Hiroshima and representing a country that had suffered nuclear attacks in the past, Kishida said any use of nuclear force is unacceptable.

During World War II, the US dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing about 116,000 people in total in the initial blasts, according to the US Department of Energy.

Kishida said US President Joe Biden initiated the virtual talks between G7 leaders, Poland, Romania and NATO.

9:44 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Overstretched Russian forces could struggle to hold Ukraine at current levels, expert predicts

Analysis from CNN's Brad Lendon

Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion has shown strength that has surprised many observers, but one international expert pointed out how historical precedent bodes poorly for Moscow should its forces be unable to subdue Ukraine quickly under current Russian troop levels.

“The Russian army is overextended and in a precarious position if Ukraine becomes a protracted war,” Seth Jones, vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a social media post.
“Assuming 150,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine and a population of 44 million, that is a force ratio of 3.4 soldiers per 1,000 people. You can’t hold territory with those numbers,” Jones said.

Jones compared the current Russian force ratio to occupations after previous wars around the world, saying successful occupations had force ratios that were “astronomically higher.”

For example, he said:

  • The Allied forces occupying Germany in 1945 had 89.3 troops to 1,000 inhabitants.
  • NATO forces in Bosnia in 1995 had 17.5 troops to 1,000 inhabitants.
  • NATO forces in Kosovo in 2000 had 19.3 to 1,000.
  • And international forces in East Timor in 2000 had 9.8 to 1,000.
“High numbers of troops and police are critical to establish basic law and order,” Jones said.
“In fact, the number of Russian soldiers in Ukraine aren’t even enough to hold any major cities for long.”

And if Russian occupiers face a guerrilla war in the event the Ukrainian government falls, the odds won’t be in Russia’s favor, he said.

“They will be in serious danger of being picked apart by Ukrainian insurgents.”

9:36 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Disney will stop releasing films in Russia

From CNN’s Frank Pallotta

Disney, Hollywood's largest and most influential movie studio, is pausing the release of its theatrical films in Russia following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

"Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming 'Turning Red' from Pixar," a Disney spokesperson said in statement on Monday.
"We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation."

Disney had multiple films set for release in Russia in the coming months. That includes Marvel's "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" on May 5 and Pixar's "Lightyear" on June 16.

Although Russia is not a major movie market like China and the United States, the move to pull films from the country, at least for the time being, is notable and could prompt other movie studios to follow suit.

Read the full story:

9:30 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Blinken condemns "Russia's attacks on Ukrainian cities and mounting civilian deaths"

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned reports of “Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian cities and mounting civilian deaths,” according to the State Department.

Blinken made the comments while on a call with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday.

"The Secretary offered steadfast solidarity with the Ukrainian people, who are bravely resisting and repelling a brutal, premeditated, and unprovoked Russian invasion, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
9:21 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Overwhelming wave of Russian troops expected in Ukraine, US officials warn

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Lauren Fox

US administration officials warned lawmakers in classified briefings Monday that a second wave of Russian troops will likely consolidate the country's positions within Ukraine and by sheer numbers be able to overcome the Ukrainian resistance, according to two people familiar with the briefings.   

“That part was disheartening,” one lawmaker told CNN.

The officials also said Russia was likely to lay siege to Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, and predicted ugly scenes of urban warfare, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

Putin's mental state: Questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin's mental state arose during the briefings, but were not clearly answered by the administration officials, the sources said.

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, who attended the Senate briefing, confirmed Putin's mental state came up, but he declined to elaborate on what was shared.

He did say, however, that regardless of the briefing, he personally is worried about Putin’s mental state.

The Biden administration officials were more upbeat about the unity emerging from Western countries, both in terms of sanctions as well as weapons coming from nations like Germany that were opposed to such a move just a few days ago, the sources said.