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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3:01 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Snake Island defenders "alive and well," Ukrainian Navy says

From CNN's Seb Shukla in Kyiv

The defenders of Snake Island in the Black Sea, who were initially feared dead, are “alive and well,” according to the Ukrainian Navy. 

On Monday, a statement from the Navy said that the soldiers on the island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, repelled two attacks by Russian forces but in the end were forced to surrender “due to the lack of ammunition.”

The statement went on to say that Russian forces have completely destroyed the islands infrastructure: lighthouses, towers and antennas. 

Over the weekend, the Ukrainian Border Guard Service said they had received information that all 82 soldiers may be alive. 

Russian state media also showed the arrival of the Ukrainian soldiers in Sevastopol, Crimea, where they are being held. 

More background: Snake Island sits about 30 miles (48 kilometers) off the southern tip of the Ukrainian mainland in the northwestern Black Sea. It's about 185 miles (300 kilometers) west of Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Russia annexed in 2014.

Though it is only about 46 acres (18 hectares) in size, a report last year from the non-partisan Atlantic Council think tank called it "key to Ukraine's maritime territorial claims" in the Black Sea.

Here's a look at where the island is located:

9:21 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

UK prime minister will travel to Poland and Estonia on Tuesday 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Luke McGee in London

Boris Johnson met members of the Ukrainian community on February 27 at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Mayfair, London, England. 
Boris Johnson met members of the Ukrainian community on February 27 at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Mayfair, London, England.  (Jamie Lorriman/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will travel to Poland and Estonia, the prime minister's office said on Monday. 

A spokesperson for the prime minister told journalists during a lobby briefing that Johnson will travel to the two countries on Tuesday to speak with his Polish and Estonian counterparts. He is also set to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday, the spokesperson added.  

The prime minister will also speak with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and G7 leaders later Monday, according to the spokesperson.  

9:03 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Several European nations announce they will not play international football fixtures against Russia

From CNN’s Aleks Klosok in London

Several European football associations announced Monday that they will not play international fixtures against Russia until further notice.

Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Albania followed in the footsteps of England, Czech Republic, Sweden and Poland in refusing to face Russia at any level of international football.

The Swiss FA said in a statement that its decision would extend to the women’s national team’s opening group stage game of the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euros on July 9 against Russia.

The Scottish FA said that its president Rob Petrie had sent “a message of support, friendship, and unity” to his counterpart at the Ukrainian Association of Football.

The two nations are due to meet on March 24 in their 2022 FIFA World Cup play-off semifinal in Glasgow.

The Football Association of Ireland offered its “unequivocal support to Ukraine’s FA,” adding that Ireland’s national stadium – Aviva Stadium – will be lit up in the colors of the Ukrainian flag later Monday.

9:52 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Russian foreign minister cancels trip to UN in Geneva due to EU airspace ban

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with the officials on February 25, in Moscow, Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with the officials on February 25, in Moscow, Russia. (Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has canceled his visit to Geneva for the session of the UN Human Rights Council, because of the European Union's ban on Russian aircraft, the Russian Mission in Geneva said Monday. 

The EU confirmed its decision to shut down its airspace to Russia on Sunday. The ban is part of the measures in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

“Our airspace will be closed to every Russian plane. And that includes the private jets of oligarchs too," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday.


9:49 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Norway's energy giant Equinor to exit its partnerships in Russia

From CNN's Pamela Boykoff

CEO of Equinor Anders Opedal at the headquarters of Equinor in Fornebu, Baerum, Norway on August 10, 2020.
CEO of Equinor Anders Opedal at the headquarters of Equinor in Fornebu, Baerum, Norway on August 10, 2020. (Håkon Mosvold Larsen/NTB/AFP/Getty Images)

Norwegian oil and gas company Equinor will stop all new investments in Russia and begin to exit its joint ventures there, the company said in a statement Monday.

“We are all deeply troubled by the invasion of Ukraine, which represents a terrible setback for the world," said Anders Opedal, president and CEO of Equinor.

The company said it had $1.2 billion in long-term investments in Russia at the end of 2021. It has operated in Russia for more than 30 years and has a cooperation agreement with Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft. 

Why this matters: This is significant because the Norwegian government owns two-thirds of Equinor, according to the company's website. On Sunday, the Norwegian government also announced in a statement that it will ask its sovereign wealth fund to divest from Russia. The fund describes itself as one of the world’s largest, holding 1.5% of all shares in global listed companies.

8:42 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Putin faces stiffer than expected resistance in and out of Ukraine

From CNN's Luke McGee

Five days into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it seems things haven't gone exactly to plan for Vladimir Putin so far.

Western intelligence officials briefed repeatedly over the weekend that Russian forces have encountered "stiffer than expected" resistance from an outmanned and outgunned Ukrainian military.

Russia has thus far failed to take key cities across Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv. On Sunday, Ukrainian forces successfully repelled a Russian advance on a strategic airfield near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, which has been under near-constant attack.

In addition to a fierce fightback from Ukrainian forces and civilians, the Russian invasion has suffered logistical challenges, with soldiers on the front line running short of fuel, ammunition and food.

"They are having problems," a NATO official said of the Russian forces, pointing to the alliance's latest intelligence. "They lack diesel, they are proceeding way too slow and morale is obviously an issue."

But a senior US defense official told reporters on Sunday that Russia has only used two-thirds of the total combat power applied to the mission, leaving a significant amount of forces available to press the offensive.

And on Monday, a miles-long convoy of Russian military vehicles was bearing down on the Ukrainian capital, while Kyiv's intelligence also suggests Belarus is prepared to join the Russian invasion, according to a Ukrainian official.

Representatives from Ukraine and Russia were meeting Monday on the Belarusian border. In those talks, Ukraine will insist on an "immediate ceasefire" and the withdrawal of Russian troops — though, realistically, no one is expecting that to happen.

Putin, it seems, hasn't just misjudged Ukraine's ability to defend itself, but also just how hard a line the international community would take against Russia in the event of an invasion.

For years, the Russian president has faced very little pushback from the West over his illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, his brutal support for the Syrian regime and acts of aggression in other countries.

For all their strong words of condemnation for Putin and his regime, Western countries still bought gas from Russia, offered a safe haven to Russian oligarchs and retained relatively normal diplomatic relations with Moscow.

But this time around — despite a few early rocky patches which saw Western nations accused of not hitting Russia hard enough — Putin has faced an unusually united Western alliance.

Read more here.

8:39 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Russia closes airspace to 36 nations

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow

The Russian Civil Aviation Authority has closed off its airspace to the carriers of 36 countries, it said in a statement on Monday

According to the agency, the decision was taken in response to the bans imposed by European states on carriers or flights registered in Russia.

Read more about the bans here.

9:45 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

More than 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine amid Russia's ongoing invasion, UN Refugee Agency says

From CNN's Nada Bashir

A displaced Ukrainian with her children at a temporary shelter in Beregsurany, Hungary, on Monday, Feb. 28.
A displaced Ukrainian with her children at a temporary shelter in Beregsurany, Hungary, on Monday, Feb. 28. (Akos Stiller/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

More than 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries amid Russia’s ongoing invasion and military aggression, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said Monday. 

“UNHCR is working with partners and local authorities to provide humanitarian aid and support those in need,” UNHCR added in a Tweet. 

In an earlier tweet, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said neighboring countries must urgently share this responsibility “in concrete ways.” 

The European Union has shown “unity and firm action” in a way “never seen before” in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Monday while speaking from a mobile refugee camp at the Siret border point in Romania.

“I also see the need for the European Commission to step up when it comes to support in funding, in personnel and in other aspects," she said.

8:49 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

White House is watching Belarus closely and prepared to levy more sanctions, US official says

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

The White House is watching actions taken by Belarus closely and is prepared to levy more sanctions on the country amid reports that Belarusian forces could join Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, a senior administration official said.

"We’re watching those events very carefully," the official said when asked about reports of intelligence showing Belarus is prepared to join the Russian invasion.

"We’ve said to the extent Belarus continues to aid and abet Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, they will also face consequences," the official said. "We’ve already rolled out some of those measures. Those costs will continue to ratchet much higher."