The latest on the Ukraine-Russia border crisis

By Jeevan Ravindran, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 7:03 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022
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3:52 p.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Biden says US has "not verified" reports Russia has withdrawn troops from near Ukraine

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Biden told reporters at the White House Tuesday that the United States has "not yet verified” that Russia has begun the withdrawal some troops following the completion of recent drills near Ukraine, warning “invasion remains distinctly possible.”

“The Russian Defense Minister reported today that some military units are leaving their positions near Ukraine. That would be good, but we have not yet verified that,” Biden said. “We have not yet verified the Russian military units are returning to their home bases — indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position, and the fact remains right now Russia has more than 150,000 troops circling Ukraine and Belarus, and along Ukraine's border and invasion remains distinctly possible.”

The Russian defense ministry said troops from its Southern and Western military districts — parts of which are next door to Ukraine — had begun to return to their home stations, though the announcement did not say precisely where those troops were permanently based, where they had been exercising, or how many of them were withdrawing.

In his remarks Tuesday, the President reiterated that Americans in the region should leave “before it’s too late to leave safely,” pointing to the decision to relocate the US Embassy in Kyiv to the western city of Lviv.

 

8:51 p.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Biden told Putin US is willing to pursue diplomacy to negotiate "written understandings" with Russia

From CNN's Mike Hayes and Kevin Liptak

(Alex Brandon/AP)
(Alex Brandon/AP)

President Biden said there is "plenty of room for diplomacy" with Russia that could avoid a conflict in Europe.

Speaking from the White House, Biden laid out areas where Washington and Moscow can continue talking as Russia continues to mass troops along their border with Ukraine.

"That's the best way forward for all parties, in our view. We'll continue our diplomatic efforts in close consultation with our allies and our partners," Biden said in the East Room.

"As long as there is hope of diplomatic resolution that prevents the use of force and avoids incredible human suffering that would follow, we will pursue it," Biden said.

Biden's remarks come amid mixed signals from Russia. While its leaders have said diplomacy is still possible, troops continue to build around three sides of Ukraine.

The President said that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin this weekend and made it clear that the US is willing to "keep pursuing high-level diplomacy" to negotiate "written understandings" with Russia.

"Yesterday, the Russian government publicly proposed to continue the diplomacy. I agree," Biden said in the East Room.

He added, "We should give the diplomacy every chance to succeed." 

Biden said that he believes that there are ways "to address our respective security concerns." 

"The United States has put on the table concrete ideas to establish security environment in Europe. We're proposing new arms control measures, new transparency measures, new strategic stability measures," Biden said.

The President noted that the US "will not sacrifice basic principles, though."

"We're willing to make practical, result-oriented steps that can advance our common security," he said. "We will not sacrifice basic principles, though. Nations have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. They have the freedom to set their own course and choose with whom they will associate. But that still leaves plenty of room for diplomacy and for de-escalation."

3:38 p.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Biden: We are "prepared no matter what happens" in Ukraine

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Biden said that the US is "prepared no matter what happens," during his remarks from the White House on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

"The United States is prepared, no matter what happens. We are ready with diplomacy, to engage in diplomacy with Russia and our allies and partners to improve stability and security in Europe as a whole. And we are ready to respond decisively to Russian attack on Ukraine, which is still very much a possibility. All the events of the last few weeks and months, this has been our approach and remains our approach now," the President said.  
3:31 p.m. ET, February 15, 2022

NOW: Biden gives update on situation in Ukraine 

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Maegan Vazquez

(Pool)
(Pool)

President Biden is providing a status update on the ongoing situation in Ukraine from the White House.

"He will reiterate that the United States remains open to high-level diplomacy in close coordination with our Allies, building on the multiple diplomatic off-ramps we and our Allies and partners have offered Russia in recent months. The United States continues to believe diplomacy and de-escalation are the best path forward, but is prepared for every scenario," the White House said ahead of the speech.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that Biden would not be announcing "new policy" in his remarks.

More background: The speech comes as Russia has amassed more than 130,000 troops near Ukraine's border in recent weeks, according to US estimates, raising fears from Western and Ukrainian intelligence officials that an invasion could be imminent. 

Russia announced earlier Tuesday that some of its troops would return to base after completing recent drills, but stressed that major military exercises would continue.

The Russian defense ministry said troops from its Southern and Western military districts — parts of which are next door to Ukraine — had begun to return to their home stations, though the announcement did not say precisely where those troops were permanently based, where they had been exercising, or how many of them were withdrawing.

US ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said Tuesday the US was "monitoring the situation" after the Kremlin's troop announcement, but added that the US "will have to verify" any claims of a potential move towards de-escalation by Russia.

3:14 p.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Senate Republicans introduce their own Russia sanctions package after stalled bipartisan negotiations

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Ellie Kaufman

Republican US senators introduced their own sanctions package to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine and to show support and provide assistance to Ukraine and Europe in the event of a Russian invasion, leading to questions about whether bipartisan negotiations over sanctions have ended on Capitol Hill. 

The Republican-led sanctions package comes after weeks of failed negotiations between bipartisan senators. Senators could not agree on whether to include sanctions that deal with the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The Republican proposal could be a negotiating tactic to get Democrats to re-open discussions on a bipartisan sanctions package.

But in order to make any kind of congressional sanctions package impactful, senators need to move quickly. Russia has amassed more than 130,000 troops on Ukraine’s border and Putin continues to add to his “menu of options” militarily, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a press briefing on Monday.

What the legislation would do: The proposed Republican sanctions package, introduced as the Never Yielding Europe’s Territory (NYET) Act, would “mandate sanctions” on the Nord Stream 2 project “without a waiver should Russia invade,” a release about the Act said.

The bill would sanction Putin’s “cronies, enablers and major banks,” and it would provide $500 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine. Out of the $500 million, $250 of that would be “emergency funding,” and $100 million would be for “emergency lethal assistance for critical capabilities like air defense, anti-armor and anti-ship capabilities.”

The proposed funding in this bill would be in addition to funding the US government has already given to Ukraine. In 2021, the US delivered approximately $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine, Kirby said in December. Since 2014, when Russia invaded and occupied the Crimean peninsula, the US has provided more than $2.5 billion in aid to Ukraine.

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was disappointed senators had not come to a bipartisan agreement on a sanctions package.

“I wish we had,” come up with a bipartisan sanctions package, Kaine said, but he cautioned that sanctions can sometimes make it harder for leaders to take a “diplomatic offramp because they don’t want to look like oh we had to back down because of the sanctions.”

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US government "is offering a sovereign loan guarantee to Ukraine of up to $1 billion to support its economic reform agenda and continued engagement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)."

The package would also double US “funding for US military exercises in Europe,” and it would create a new State Department Foreign Military Financing program for Eastern Europe to “help European allies strengthen their own defensive capabilities,” the release said.

3:01 p.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Ukraine requests international assistance from NATO

Ukraine is preparing for “large-scale emergencies of various nature that can affect its civilian population,” according to a statement put out by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) received a request from Ukraine on Feb. 15 for international assistance, the statement read. 

The Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) is NATO’s principal civil emergency response mechanism in the Euro-Atlantic area.

Ukraine provided a detailed of items it deemed critical including cars, trucks, cranes, bulldozers, machines for radiation and chemical reconnaissance, equipment to search for explosive objects, thermal imagine equipment, more than 50 self-sustaining field camps to accommodate 250-300 people, equipment and personal protection for EOD attacks, communications equipment, medical supplies, and more.  

Read more about NATO and its members here.

2:58 p.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Senior EU diplomat: Diplomatic path is "priority number one" regarding Ukraine

From CNN's James Frater in Brussels

The focus of the European Union on the situation in Ukraine is all on “the diplomatic track," a senior EU diplomat told journalists on Tuesday.

When asked if the Ukraine security situation would overshadow the EU-African Union summit taking place on Thursday in Brussels, the senior EU diplomat said, “It's quite clear that priority number one when it comes to Ukraine is the diplomatic track."

"I think all of us are focused on the diplomatic track, all the visits are focused on the diplomatic track, the NATO Defense Ministers meeting tomorrow is focused on the diplomatic track," the senior EU diplomat said. 

Reiterating the EU’s position, the senior diplomat said that, “there will be massive consequences with severe costs,” if there were a change to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He also said he hoped there would be no need for a sideline gathering of the EU leaders on Ukraine, “because that would be the best possible situation.”

2:51 p.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Top US general spoke to Ukrainian counterpart for the second time this week

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The top US general spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart for the second time this week. It also marks the seventh time the two have spoken in a little over a month.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shared “perspectives and assessments” of the situation around Ukraine with Lt. Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, according to a readout of the call. Milley again highlighted “unwavering” support for Ukrainian sovereignty.  

The two spoke Monday, as well as twice last week, and have been in frequent communication as the number of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders has grown.

 

2:16 p.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Blinken reiterates "US commitment to continue to pursue" diplomacy in call with Lavrov

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the US's "commitment to continue to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis Moscow has precipitated” during a call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to a readout.

Blinken said the US looks forward to receiving Moscow’s formal response to its written document.

According to the US State Department readout, Blinken noted that Lavrov said the response would be transmitted in the coming days.

“Blinken reiterated our ongoing concerns that Russia has the capacity to launch an invasion of Ukraine at any moment and emphasized the need to see verifiable, credible, meaningful de-escalation,” the readout said. “He underscored that, while further Russian aggression against Ukraine would result in a swift, severe, and united Transatlantic response, we remain committed to the diplomatic path and believe that a window remains to resolve the crisis peacefully.”