February 28, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Leinz Vales, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 7:24 a.m. ET, March 1, 2023
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5:39 a.m. ET, February 28, 2023

Putin to have "serious conversation" with security service, Kremlin says

From CNN's Radina Gigova and Anna Chernova 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a "serious conversation" with the country's Federal Security Service (FSB) on Tuesday, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The role of the service "can hardly be overestimated" in the present time, Peskov added during a regular call with reporters. 

"Putin will take part in the meeting of the Board of the Federal Security Service today. The President will make a speech, part of which will be open," Peskov said. 

"There will also be a part behind closed doors as is traditionally the case, a big voluminous speech by FSB Director Bortnikov in the presence of the president."

The meaning of the service at present moment can hardly be overestimated so it will be a serious conversation," added Peskov.

"Mainly, it will be about summing up last year's results of the [FSB] service and setting the outlooks for the upcoming year."

On Monday, a statement from the Kremlin revealed that Putin will take part in a meeting of the Board of the Federal Security Service, during which "the results of the operational and service activities of the FSB bodies in 2022 will be summed up and priority tasks for 2023 will be identified."

5:14 a.m. ET, February 28, 2023

Putin informed of temporary closure of St. Petersburg airport, says Kremlin

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Anna Chernova

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed of the temporary closure of the St. Petersburg airport, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov refused to provide any further details but did say that city authorities and the military would provide an update later.

Russian state news agency RIA reported that airspace restrictions around St. Petersburg had been lifted following the closure.

Flight tracking websites showed aircraft taking off from Pulkovo airport again after operations had been suspended.

Earlier Tuesday, the city government had said that the airport was not accepting any flights until noon local time. And state news agencies RIA and TASS reported that the airspace in a 200-kilometer (125-mile) radius of the city had been closed until 13:20 local time.

Flight tracking services showed flights turning around and returning to their departure airport.

The announcements came after reports of an unidentified object in the air, but authorities have not confirmed the reason for the closure.

4:50 a.m. ET, February 28, 2023

Russian radio and TV sound air raid warnings after hack

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Anna Chernova

Russian radios and TV channels sounded air raid sirens and displayed warnings after they were hacked on Tuesday, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said in a statement.

As a result of the hacking of the servers of radio stations and TV channels in some regions of the country, information about the announcement of an air raid alert was broadcast,” the statement read.

“The Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia informs that this information is false and does not correspond to reality.”

Social media videos showed radios playing air raid sirens after the hack, which is the second in quick succession after the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations reported a similar incident last week.

Air raid sirens have become a common feature of life in Ukraine since the start of Russia's invasion.

4:38 a.m. ET, February 28, 2023

US Army veteran killed fighting for Ukraine had a "very strong sense" of right and wrong, father says

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie

US Army veteran Andrew Peters died fighting for Ukraine on February 16.
US Army veteran Andrew Peters died fighting for Ukraine on February 16. (Courtesy John Peters)

The father of a US Army veteran who was killed fighting for Ukraine earlier this month said Ukrainian commanders had warned his son that Russia’s invasion resembled “World War I or II” before he enlisted in the country's defense.

Andrew Peters, 28, died in action on Feb. 16 while serving with Ukraine's International Legion of Defense. 

His father, John Peters, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday that "we did our homework" researching the unit, which was created by President Volodymyr Zelensky to allow foreign citizens to join the Ukrainian resistance against Russian occupation and fight for global security.

"Even the commanders over there didn’t pull any punches — they said this is dangerous, this is not like Afghanistan, this is not like Iraq… this is knockdown drag-out gutter fighting, this is like World War I or World War II,” John Peters said.

“There were a number of guys who left after hearing that, but Andrew was like, 'no I’m going to stick this out. I’m going to finish this.'"

Andrew Peters, from Marshfield, Wisconsin, had served a tour with the US Army in Afghanistan prior to joining Ukraine's war effort.

In the interview, his father said he was “like any other average 28-year-old American,” and someone with a “very strong sense of what was right and wrong.”

“I still remember one of the times he called, he said: 'Dad, you cannot imagine the amount of destruction and suffering that’s going on over here. What you see on TV does not do it justice,'” John Peters said. 
3:23 a.m. ET, February 28, 2023

Ukrainian commander says Wagner is throwing its "most trained" units into battle for Bakhmut

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Hannah Ritchie

A view from a window of an apartment destroyed by Russian forces in Kostiantynivka, near Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 27.
A view from a window of an apartment destroyed by Russian forces in Kostiantynivka, near Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 27. (Ignacio Marin Fernandez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The situation around the embattled city of Bakhmut is "extremely tense," partly because of the involvement of the "most trained" assault units of Russian mercenary group Wagner, the commander of Ukraine's ground forces said on Tuesday.

According to a Telegram post from Ukraine’s military media center, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi said that "despite significant losses," in the fight for the eastern city, "the enemy has thrown the most trained Wagner assault units into the offensive, trying to break through the defense of our troops and surround the city.”

Ukrainian troops have been struggling to maintain access to Bakhmut as Russian forces have been gradually advancing north and west of the city in recent weeks.

“In the battles for Bakhmut, our soldiers are showing numerous examples of resilience, courage and heroism,” Syrskyi added. 

Some context: Ukrainian officials have highlighted the growing intensity of the fighting around Bakhmut in recent weeks. 

On Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said attempts to defend the city were "getting more and more challenging," while Col. Yuriy Madyar, commander of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade, described the situation there as "extremely difficult."

CNN's Maria Kostenko contributed reporting.

12:59 a.m. ET, February 28, 2023

Analysis: US-China relations deteriorate from new disagreements over Ukraine and Covid-19

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

It gets worse every day.

An already inflamed relationship between the US and China is being exacerbated by two fresh controversies — one over the exact origins of Covid-19 and the other stemming from stern US warnings that China must not arm Russia in its war in Ukraine.

The new disagreements are so fraught that the recent unprecedented diplomatic showdown over a suspected Chinese spy balloon that floated across the continental US is not even the most recent or intense cause of strife.

This trio of confrontations — along with rising tensions between US and Chinese forces in Asia and escalating standoffs over Taiwan — are dramatizing a long-building and once theoretical superpower rivalry that is suddenly a daily reality.

Ukraine tensions: The US, citing unpublished intelligence, has spent the last week warning that China is considering sending lethal aid to bolster Russia’s forces — a situation that would effectively put China on the opposite side of a proxy war with the US and NATO powers that have sent billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine.

Beijing has long amplified Russia’s justifications for the invasion, which took place a year ago shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to the Chinese capital to agree to a friendship with “no limits” with Xi.

China would prefer Russia, which shares its autocratic form of government, not to suffer a total defeat in Ukraine — which could lead to the ousting of close ally Putin. And China increasingly tends to view its global interests through the prism of its standoff with the US, so it may perceive an advantage in Washington being locked in an arms-length conflict in Ukraine that is costing billions of dollars and to which it is sending reserve military equipment and ammunition that can therefore not be used to bolster its Pacific forces. Delays in procurement in the US arms industry caused by Ukraine could also slow the flow of weapons to Taiwan.

Yet a decision by China to throw in its lot with Russia in Ukraine would amount to a radical change in foreign policy — and another massive plunge in US-China relations. Washington and the European Union would certainly respond with sanctions on Chinese firms, a threat that will likely give leaders in Beijing pause, as the country’s economy slowly recovers from years of Covid isolation.

Read the full analysis here.

12:47 a.m. ET, February 28, 2023

Fighting in Bakhmut is becoming more challenging, Ukrainian officials say. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Fighting in Bakhmut is "getting more and more challenging," President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian commander said the situation in the eastern city was "extremely difficult" due to non-stop Russian assaults.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Yellen's unannounced trip to Kyiv: While the Russian economy has not yet buckled under the wide array of sanctions from the United States and other Western countries, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday she expects it to grow weaker over time as the country loses foreign investment and runs through its reserves and rainy-day funds. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal says the country's budget deficit this year is expected to amount to $38 billion, but that the US is committing to provide more than $10 billion in budget support by September.
  • Fighter jets push: The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said he spoke to the top US general on Monday and reiterated the need to strengthen Kyiv's air defense through the F-16 multi-role fighter aircraft. The United States has consistently said that it has no plans to send F-16s to Ukraine. 
  • Nuclear treaty remains in force ... for now: Russia's suspension of its participation in a key nuclear arms control treaty — known as New START — "hasn’t been officially affected yet in the sense that we’re still receiving notifications, as recently as today, under the treaty, regular notifications,” said Mallory Stewart, assistant secretary for the US Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, at an event at Brookings Institution. The bureau is within the State Department. Stewart later added when the suspension is formalized, notifications will stop.
  • Nordic NATO bid: Turkey’s talks with Sweden and Finland on the Nordic countries’ NATO accession bid will resume on March 9, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday. Cavusoglu told a televised news conference that “there are commitments [Sweden made] for NATO membership. It is not possible for us to say yes to Sweden's NATO membership without seeing these steps.”
  • Moldova flights paused: European low-cost carrier Wizz Air is suspending all its flights to the Moldovan capital of Chisinau from March 14 due to some “recent developments” in the country, the airline said. The company didn’t specify the recent developments it was referring to. Tensions have been mounting in Moldova after its president accused Russia of plotting to destabilize the country, which borders Ukraine. The Kremlin denies the accusations.
  • Refugees keep culture alive: While Russia's war in Ukraine rages on, a group of refugees in The Hague, Netherlands, have used their talents to help preserve Ukrainian culture and raise awareness of the dire situation in their country. The United Ukrainian Ballet was formed soon after Russia invaded Ukraine just over one year ago, when two Ukrainian dancers were touring with Dutch prima ballerina Igone de Jongh and the pair sought refuge in The Hague. The company has since grown to more than 60 dancers who tour the world.
11:10 p.m. ET, February 27, 2023

Zelensky says situation in Bakhmut is getting more challenging for Ukraine

From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen are seen near an automatic grenade launcher at their positions in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 25.
Ukrainian servicemen are seen near an automatic grenade launcher at their positions in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 25. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)

The situation in the eastern city of Bakhmut is "getting more and more challenging," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday.

"The enemy is constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions, to secure and defend it," Zelensky said, soon after military commanders spoke of hundreds of Russian strikes in the area.

"Our soldiers defending the Bakhmut direction are true heroes," Zelesnky said in his daily video update.

More on this: Earlier Monday, Serhii Cherevatyi, the spokesman for the Eastern Grouping of the Armed Forces, told Ukrainian television: "Bakhmut remains the epicenter of the enemy's attack, where they are focusing on breaking through our defense. In particular, in the area of such settlements as Dubovo-Vasylivka, Yahidne, Ivankivske, and Pivnichne."

The named places are all west of Bakhmut.

Cherevatyi said: "There were 300 attacks from various types of artillery and multiple rocket launchers on this section of the front line. 60 combat engagements took place, where the enemy lost 63 servicemen killed and 141 wounded of varying severity."

7:54 p.m. ET, February 27, 2023

European airline will suspend all flights to Moldovan capital due to "recent developments"

From CNN’s Tim Lister

European low-cost carrier Wizz Air is suspending all its flights to the Moldovan capital of Chisinau starting on March 14 due to some “recent developments” in the country, the airline said. 

"As a result of recent developments in Moldova and the high, but not imminent, risk in the country's airspace, Wizz Air has taken the difficult but responsible decision to suspend all flights to Chisinau starting on March 14,” it said in a statement on Monday. 

The company didn’t specify the recent developments it was referring to. 

Tensions have been mounting in Moldova, as the country's President Maia Sandu has accused Russia of using “saboteurs” to stoke unrest amid a period of political instability, echoing similar warnings from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Russia has denied any claims it is plotting to destabilize Moldova.

With previous reporting from Radina Gigova.