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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11:22 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Russian forces could take "more aggressive approach" towards Kyiv, senior US defense official says

From CNN's Barbara Starr, Ellie Kaufman and Michael Conte

It is possible that the Russians could take a “more aggressive approach” in their attempts to take the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv, because they are frustrated that their progress has slowed and they’ve faced resistance from Ukrainians there, a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday.

“Certainly, they have been slowed and they have been frustrated by their lack of progress on Kyiv, and one of the things that could result is a reevaluation of their tactics and the potential for them to be more aggressive and more overt in both the size and the scale of their targeting of Kyiv,” the official said in response to a question from CNN’s Barbara Starr. 

The official said they have “not seen” that more aggressive approach “yet” from the Russians, but “the frustrations could lead to a more aggressive approach.” 

“We still believe that Kyiv is an objective for them. It’s impossible to speculate as to how they may or may not change their plans going forward,” the official said.

The Russian forces are now “roughly 25 km out of Kyiv,” a senior US defense official told reporters Monday morning eastern time. 

Russian forces are “advancing on the ground and trying to get closer to Kyiv.” Russian forces “clearly want to encircle Kyiv from multiple locations, not just the north, but to move around it as well from the south,” the official added. 

“The Ukrainians are putting up continued and sustained and stiff resistance in and around Kyiv, and we certainly don’t see any slackening off on their part either,” the official said.

11:21 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Germany vows to take in all Ukrainian refugees 

From Inke Kappeler in Berlin

Germany has vowed to take in all Ukrainian refugees who flee from a Russian invasion of their country.

“We will take in all Ukrainians fleeing,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at a joint news conference with her Slovenian counterpart Anze Logar on Monday. “We are helping fleeing people from Ukraine. We are standing at the borders to bring help to the people and to bring people to all European countries."

Baerbock also promised more humanitarian help to Ukraine.

Ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York this week, Baerbock asked all countries who “believe in the Charta of the United Nations" to isolate the Russian leadership for its invasion of Ukraine.

“Today it is already the fifth day of Putin's war against Ukraine and innocent people in Ukraine. He has brought incredible sufferings upon Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing, millions fear for their lives and their future. As atrocious as these pictures are, they make us more decisive! Ukraine does not stand alone, Europe, the Western Union of Values firmly stands at the side of the brave Ukrainians,“ Baerbock said.

In a major policy shift, Germany promised weapons to Ukraine on Saturday.

“Putin's war has thrown us into a different era. We will re-evaluate previous certainties and therefore we will help Ukrainians with weapons and other equipment,” Baerbock added.

11:17 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

UN World Food Programme launches emergency food assistance for people fleeing Ukraine 

From Sharon Braithwaite in London

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has launched an emergency operation to provide food assistance to people within Ukraine and in neighboring countries following an official request from the Ukrainian government, the UN agency said Monday. 

The organization is calling for $570 million USD in order to provide support to refugees fleeing violence amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

“We are deeply concerned for the impact of hostilities on the lives and livelihoods of civilians,” Margot van der Velden, WFP’s Director of Emergencies, said in a statement. 

“As the situation evolves, there is a need to ensure that affected communities have continued access to any humanitarian support they may require and that the safety of humanitarian staff on the ground is guaranteed,” she added. 

According WFP staff in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, “food supplies are running low” and grocery store shelves are “almost empty,” the statement added.

“Food shortages will be another obstacle facing residents of Kyiv, many of whom have taken shelter in metro stations,” the WFP added. 

The UN agency has stated that its food assistance operation is also set to cover Romania and Poland initially, with the possibility to extend to Moldova and Slovakia. 

Earlier on Monday, the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said more than 500,000 refugees had so far fled Ukraine to neighboring countries amid Russia’s ongoing invasion and military aggression.

11:09 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

UK will lead efforts to block Russia from Interpol

From CNN’s Anna Cooban in London

Britain will seek to suspend Russia from international policing body Interpol, the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told parliament on Monday.

"The Ukrainian government has today requested that the Russian government be suspended from its membership of Interpol, and we will be leading all international efforts to that effect,” Patel said.

Interpol is a global agency that facilitates police across its 195-member countries to collaborate on criminal investigations.

11:14 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Russian forces moved about 3 miles closer to Kyiv's city center since yesterday, US defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman & Jeremy Herb

The Russian advance on the Ukrainian capital city Kyiv “remains slowed,” but Russian forces moved five kilometers (about three miles) closer to the city center since yesterday.

The Russian forces are now “roughly 25 kilometers out of Kyiv,” a senior US defense official told reporters Monday morning eastern time. That is about 15 miles.

“Their advance on Kyiv still appears to be their main line of effort, and we expect that they’re going to want to continue to move forward and try to encircle the city in coming days,” the official said.

Taking Kharkiv “remains an objective” for the Russians, and “they continue to try to advance on” the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, but the Russians have not taken either city yet, the official said.

“The current belief is that if they can get Kharkiv and they can get Mariupol, if you draw a line between those two cities, you can see that that would allow them to section off the eastern part of Ukraine,” the official said.

The US has not seen “anything specific” since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he ordered his country’s deterrence forces, including nuclear weapons, on high alert on Sunday, a senior US defense official told reporters Monday. 

“We’re still monitoring and watching this as closely as we can, given President Putin’s announcement yesterday,” the official said. “I don’t believe we’ve seen anything specific as a result of the direction that he gave.”

“We remain comfortable and confident in our own strategic deterrence posture,” the official added.

 

11:22 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

UN secretary-general: "The fighting in Ukraine must stop"

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the General Assembly emergency special session in New York on February 28.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the General Assembly emergency special session in New York on February 28. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the UN General Assembly Monday in its first emergency meeting since 1982, saying of the Russian invasion “enough is enough.”

“The fighting in Ukraine must stop,” he said.

The top UN leader also called Russian putting nuclear defenses on alert “a chilling development.”

“The mere idea of a nuclear development is simply inconceivable,” Guterres said, adding “nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons.”

He said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated a half a million Ukrainians have fled the country, and there are credible reports of damage to residential buildings and critical civilian infrastructure. The UN leader called the death of civilians, including children, “totally unacceptable.”

Guterres expressed hopes that direct talks between Ukraine and Russian delegations would welcome an immediate stop to the fighting and a diplomatic solution.

“The sovereignty of Ukraine must be respected,” he said earlier.

 

10:56 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Residential neighborhood in Kharkiv hit by rocket attack, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Gianluca Mezzofiore, Katie Polglase and Paul Murphy

A residential neighborhood in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, has been hit by a rocket attack on Monday, according to Ukrainian officials and multiple social media videos geolocated by CNN. 

The videos show multiple rockets exploding closely together in a residential part of the Saltivka neighborhood in north-east Kharkiv, close to a supermarket.

One video shows a rocket booster lodged in the street pavement, as civilians look on. 

According to the Kharkiv City Council, the latest shelling of the city has left one female civilian dead, and 31 wounded. The wounded are made up of 15 servicemen and 16 civilians, according to the city council in a news statement.  

Dan Kaszeta, a London based defense specialist and an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the images are consistent with a multiple rocket launch system attacks.

“The appearance of at least one image of a rocket booster section lends credence to this having been a rocket attack,” he said. 

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s head of the ministry of internal affairs, said “Kharkiv has just been subjected to massive Grad shelling! Dozens of victims.” 

He described the situation as “a nightmare."

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova also took to Facebook to describe the situation in the city. “It’s more hellish in Kharkiv today than it was yesterday."

Venediktova posted a video showing a missile that hit a kitchen window and tore off the leg of a woman who later died in hospital, she said.  

More background: Over the last few days, the Kharkiv City Council has recorded 44 wounded, including 20 servicemen, and a total of seven killed. The seven fatalities include two servicemen and five civilians.

CNN is reaching to the Russian authorities for comment on today’s attack. 

On Monday, CNN witnessed on the Russian side of the border south of Belgorod at least three ‘Uragan’ multiple rocket launchers heading towards the Kharkiv front line. They saw three launchers and a loading vehicle with missiles on it.

On Friday, Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov sought to reassure the world about civilian casualties on day two of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Nobody is going to attack the people of Ukraine," he said during a heated news conference, telling CNN that there were "no strikes on civilian infrastructure."

10:32 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Here's a look at the latest actions by European countries against Russia

From CNN's Jack Guy, Inke Kappeler, Sharon Braithwaite and Pamela Boykoff

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press statement at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 27.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press statement at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 27. (Stephanie Lecocq/AP)

Russia is facing universal condemnation and increased sanctions from countries across Europe over its unprovoked assault on Ukraine, and more moves are being announced each day.

If you're just reading in today, here's a look at the latest actions by European countries against Russia:

EU closes its airspace to Russia, including the private jets of oligarchs

On Sunday, the EU announced it is closing its airspace to Russia, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

“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.

Russian state media outlets banned

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." 

Central bank reserves of Russia blocked by new sanctions

More than half of the central bank reserves of Russia will be blocked as part of new EU sanctions against the country, Borrell said Sunday.

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.

Switzerland will forego "Swiss neutrality" and adopt the same sanctions as EU against Russia

On Monday, Switzerland announced that it will forego its commitment to “Swiss neutrality” in favor of adopting sanctions against Russia, Swiss Federal President Ignazio Cassis said, adding that Switzerland’s sanctions will be in line with those already adopted by the European Union. 

“The Swiss Federal Council has decided today to fully adopt EU sanctions,” Cassis said during a news briefing. “It is an unparalleled action of Switzerland, who has always stayed neutral before.”

“Russia's attack is an attack on freedom, an attack on democracy, an attack on the civil population, and an attack on the institutions of a free country. This cannot be accepted regarding international law, this cannot be accepted politically, and this cannot be accepted morally,” Cassis added. 

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

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. 

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.

Several European football associations announce they will not play international football 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.

1:15 p.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Happening now: UN General Assembly meets on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Delegates stand for a moment of silence during an emergency session of the UN General Assembly, on February 28, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Delegates stand for a moment of silence during an emergency session of the UN General Assembly, on February 28, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. (John Minchillo/AP)

The United Nations General Assembly is meeting now as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. In his opening speech, General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid of Maldives renewed his call for immediate ceasefire, the first since 1982.

He called on the parties to use “rare” dialogue opportunity to “meaningfully and rapidly de-escalate” situation.