First Polish Leopard 2 tanks delivered to Ukraine, defense ministry says
From CNN's Anna Odzeniak, Alex Hardie and Christian Edwards
A first delivery of Leopard 2 tanks from Poland has arrived in Ukraine, a spokesperson for the Polish defense ministry said on Friday.
"We confirm that at Friday's meeting of the National Security Council, Mr. Mariusz Błaszczak, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of National Defense, announced that the first Polish Leopards were delivered to Ukraine,” according to a defense ministry spokesperson.
Poland has said it will deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks in all to Ukraine in the “next two or three weeks” once the training of the Ukrainian troops is complete.
Much of this training has taken place in western Poland. CNN has reported from Poland’s main tank range, in Swietoszow, near the German border, where Ukrainian troops received a crash course in how to run the tanks that Kyiv has sought after for so long. Germany approved the release of Leopard 2 tanks, which it manufactures, last month.
Experts believe Leopard 2 tanks could make a significant difference to Ukraine’s ability to withstand and repel Russian advances.
“Leopard 2 is a modern, well-protected main battle tank with good sensors,” Jack Watling, senior research fellow in Land Warfare at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told CNN. “It was originally designed to be maintained by conscripts and is therefore simpler to keep in the fight than some other NATO designs like the Challenger 2. There is also an existing production line to keep Leopard 2s supplied with spare parts.”
7:45 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023
Japan to raise new sanctions against Russia at G7 meeting
CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he intends to present the idea of imposing new sanctions against Russia during a virtual meeting with G7 leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday.
Kishida, who is hosting the meeting, told reporters ahead of the meeting that the G7 intends to also urge third-party countries to suspend military support to Russia.
"The war situation is becoming increasingly tense, with the United States and Europe expanding their arms support while Russia is expanding its new offensive. We would like to exchange views on the latest situation, confirm the unity of the G7, and intensively discuss ways to support reconstruction efforts," Kishida said.
The prime minister reiterated the need for restoring "world peace and order" and said "any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force will not be tolerated."
Kishida is the only G7 leader who has not yet traveled to the Ukrainian capital.
On Friday, he said he was considering a visit "in light of various circumstances, including security and secrecy," but that there are no concrete plans at this time.
7:09 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023
In pictures: The day Russia invaded Ukraine
From CNN's Rob Picheta
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in the early hours of February 24, 2022. Its first signs were the emergence of tanks on the horizon, storming towards the border. Soon after, rockets rained down on Ukraine’s cities.
In a chilling speech that morning steeped in innuendo and false pretences, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced what he called a “special military operation.”
The address included a threat that anyone “who may be tempted to intervene” in the deadly and illegal attack on Ukraine would face “such consequences as you have never experienced in your history.”
That morning, it seemed to the Kremlin and to many observers around the world that the invasion would be complete in weeks, if not days, given Russia’s supposed military might.
Millions of women and children bolted to Ukraine’s western borders, seeking safety further into Europe, while Kyiv ordered Ukrainian men to stay in the country.
Roads and train stations were clogged with residents who had frantically packed bags and left their homes, where moments earlier they had been woken by missile fire and air raid sirens.
It often took many days to get to the borders. When they did, they faced lengthy lines. Eventually, thousands of Ukrainians arrived in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania or Moldova, in relative safety at last.
But for those who could or would not leave, February 24 was a day of terror and bloodshed.
Russian missile strikes destroyed homes, killed dozens and left many with physical and mental scars.
The missiles seemingly fell everywhere — in the capital Kyiv, on which Moscow’s forces invading from the north had set their sights; in western cities such as Lviv, hundreds of miles from the Russian border; and in towns and urban areas throughout Ukraine.
In a video statement, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said he believed “enemy sabotage groups” had entered Kyiv and that he was their number one target. His family, he said, was the second target.
“They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state,” he said, adding he was staying in the government quarter.
Zelensky and his top team rejected opportunities to evacuate, instead staying to coordinate the response.
Ukraine’s troops launched a defiant defence of their country. In the coming weeks, they would slowly but surely turn the tide of the war, repelling Russia’s forces from the center of the country.
But none of that was known on February 24, a day Ukrainians will remember as one of confusion, fear and resistance.
5:07 a.m. ET, February 25, 2023
A group of people with learning disabilities joins the war effort in Kyiv, making candles for troops
From CNN's Ivana Kottasová and Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv
As Ukraine marks the first anniversary of Russia launching a full-scale war against the country, Ukrainians of all walks of life are actively involved in the efforts to defeat the enemy.
At a rehabilitation center run by Rodyna, a Kyiv-based NGO working with people with learning disabilities, everybody was busy at work on Tuesday afternoon.
The task of the day: trench candles. The group has joined thousands of people across the country in crafting these improvised candles from empty tins.
Serhiy, 38 and Zhenia, 32, were patiently cutting long, thin strips from cardboard, rolling them up and stuffing them into the tins. Inna, 35, sat next to them, observing and helping to roll the paper.
Once all of the containers were stuffed with the cardboard, they would be filled to the rim with melted wax, then set aside to cool down.
The improvised candles last for hours, producing both light and warmth as they burn.
Making them has become a favorite — and extremely useful — pastime for thousands of people around the country, similar to last year’s initiative to make Molotov cocktails for the military checkpoints. There are collection points for empty tins in many residential buildings in Kyiv.
Nadiia Mayorova, Rodyna’s manager, told CNN that candle making is a popular activity at the center. It’s a good therapy, because it allows the clients to learn new skills and practice their motor skills — all while completing a genuinely useful task.
6:45 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023
Ukrainian regions report casualties, as Russian strikes continue on war anniversary
From CNN's Radina Gigova and Olga Voitovych
Ongoing Russian shelling has killed at least three civilians in Ukraine's east and south, and injured several others over the last 24 hours, according to the latest situational updates from local authorities. Here's what happening across the country:
At least two people were killed and seven injured as a result of Russian shelling across the Donetsk region over the last 24 hours, according to authorities.
Shelling has been reported in residential areas in several of the region's cities and towns, including Avdiivka, Bakhmut and Krasnohorivka.
At least one person died and three were injured over the last 24 hours in the southern Kherson region, according to authorities.
"Over the past day, the enemy launched 73 attacks, seven of them were in Kherson city," the Kherson region military administration said in a statement. "More than 30 settlements of the region were hit by the artillery of the Russian occupation forces," it added.
Two women, ages 54 and 61, and a 43-year-old man were wounded over the last 24 hours in the city of Kupyansk, according to authorities. Residential buildings were also damaged in the city, they said.
A woman and a man were injured in the village of Dvorichna, in Kupyansk district, authorities added.
Shelling has also been reported in other regions of Ukraine, including Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy and Chernihiv, according to local authorities.
6:43 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023
US announces $2 billion Ukraine aid package as defense secretary vows long-term commitment
From CNN's Oren Liebermann
The United States announced a $2 billion dollar aid package to Ukraine as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed that the US would stand by Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
The security package, which CNN reported Thursday, includes more rounds for the HIMARS rocket launchers, more artillery ammunition, as well as different drones and counter-drone equipment. Russia has used Iranian drones to target Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, cutting off power to different parts of the country at times.
Unlike drawdown packages which pull military equipment directly from US stocks, this aid falls under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which contracts with industry to procure the equipment. The aid does not arrive in Ukraine as quickly, but it is part of a longer-term commitment to continue providing Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal supplies.
As the war hits its one-year mark, Austin called Russia’s invasion “the most urgent danger to European security since the end of the World War II.”
Austin acknowledged the challenges ahead for Ukraine in the face of frequent Russian bombardments, but he vowed that the US and a coalition of allies under the Ukraine Defense Contact Group would continue to provide Kyiv the tools and weapons it needs for the war.
Difficult times may lie ahead, but let us remain clear-eyed about what is at stake in Ukraine. And let us remain united in purpose and in action—and steadfast in our commitment to ensure that a world of rules and rights is not replaced by one of tyranny and turmoil,” said Austin in a statement Friday.
7:17 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023
Ukraine can end the war this year, Zelensky says
From CNN's Lindsay Isaac and Christian Edwards
Ukraine is capable of putting an end to the Russian invasion this year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address to a commemorative event in Berlin on the first anniversary of the war.
Reflecting on the year that's passed, Zelensky spoke boldly of the year ahead. Ukraine has the power to win “in unity, resolutely and steadfastly,” he said.
He also thanked Germany and all allies for standing with his country and said because of the support shown to Ukraine, no one nation would “dare aggression against another nation if he knows that the free world will defend that nation.”
"No one will attack freedom again if he knows that the free world is determined enough to defend freedom. No one will repeat February 24 of last year if he knows that not a single occupier remained on the entire territory of Ukraine."
6:17 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023
Estonian leader calls on Europe to “jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine”
From CNN's Jessie Gretener in London
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Friday asked European countries to “jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine,” as European Union states did with coronavirus shots during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kallas spoke at a news conference alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Tallinn, to mark the anniversary of the Estonian Declaration of Independence and the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Kallas drew a parallel between those events, saying: “Estonia had the courage to fight for our freedom. The same applies for Ukrainian friends. Their courage and freedom today is a reminder that freedom is not given and need constant care.”
“Freedom also needs friends and partners … Ukraine’s place is in the European Union and after the end of the war, also in NATO.” Kallas said.
“For this we must also believe in Ukraine’s victory. Ukraine needs enough weapons and ammunition to win the war.” Kallas urged. “That is why I propose for that EU member states jointly procure ammunition for Ukraine. During the pandemic we were able to react quickly to jointly procure vaccines. Let us act quickly now and send more ammunition to Ukraine.”
Kallas also called the Russian threat a “long-term one” and called on European countries to invest more in their own defense.
7:31 a.m. ET, February 24, 2023
"I opened YouTube and learned how to use a gun": Ukrainians remember the day Russia invaded
From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Rob Picheta
“One year ago, I was woken up by explosions,” Alina Shapoval recalled, echoing the memories of countless Ukrainians from the morning that Russia launched its assault on the country exactly one year ago.
My little daughter was sleeping next to me and the first question I had was — how is it possible?”
Shapoval, 36, lived in Kyiv and hailed from Nova Kakhovka, a city in the Kherson region which is now occupied by Russian forces. Her first hours of war resembled those of millions of her compatriots — frantically ringing family members, grabbing a travel bag, leaving home.
At first, Shapoval didn’t go far. She stayed with a relative and volunteered to help supply the armed forces with clothing and equipment, just as she had done after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
“Full of adrenalin we’ve spent (the) first weeks helping our guys, with almost no sleep,” she told CNN. “I wanted to stay in Ukraine but it was dangerous and almost impossible.”
Shapoval eventually joined the millions who have fled west, staying with a friend in Switzerland for nine months, then moving on to Wroclaw in Poland.
She felt her life was “torn into pieces.”
“I didn’t see my relatives for such a long time, I didn’t know if I’ll see them again,” she said.
Olexander Atamas, 35, was living in Irpin when Russia invaded. “I was prepared, but even (still) it was unexpected when it happened,” he said. “I felt fear, I was stressed, psychologically it unsettled me.”
Atamas is now serving with Ukraine’s Naval Forces. “Currently there is no fear at all, there is a confidence that everything will develop in a right way, we’ll go through this modern liberation struggle, our state will withstand, will win, will get back our territories.”
Fear quickly turned to defiance for millions of Ukrainians.
“I remember February 24th very clearly; that day I opened YouTube with my sweaty palms and started to learn how to use a gun,” Yegor Firsov, a combat paramedic in the Ukrainian military on eastern frontline, and a former lawmaker, told CNN.
“Morally and psychologically, no one was ready for war. But we overcame our fear, we gathered our strength,” he said.
“We are ready to fight as long as will be needed – day, month or years.”