The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis

By Helen Regan, Brad Lendon, Rob Picheta, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 1:29 AM ET, Tue February 22, 2022
31 Posts
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2:14 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Putin told Scholz and Macron he intends to sign decree recognizing separatist-held regions, Kremlin says 

From CNN's Darya Tarasova and Nathan Hodge in Moscow 

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a national security meeting in Moscow on February 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a national security meeting in Moscow on February 21. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik/Kremlin/Pool/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin informed French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz by phone that he intends to sign a decree "soon" to recognize the separatist self-declared republics of Donbas, the Kremlin said Monday.

"Vladimir Putin informed them about the results of the expanded meeting of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, which considered the current situation around Donbas in the context of the State Duma's decision on the recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics," the Kremlin statement said. "Today, the leadership of the DPR and LPR received appeals to recognize their sovereignty in connection with the military aggression of the Ukrainian authorities, the massive shelling of the territory of Donbas, as a result of which the civilian population is suffering." 

Putin said that he intended to sign a corresponding decree soon, the Kremlin added.

According to the Kremlin readout, the French and German leaders "expressed their disappointment with this development. At the same time, they indicated their readiness to continue contacts."

More background: The separatist-controlled areas in Donbas are known as the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). 

The Ukrainian government in Kyiv asserts the two regions are in effect Russian-occupied. The self-declared republics are not recognized by any government, including Russia. The Ukrainian government refuses to talk directly with either separatist republic.

Read more here about the separatist regions and why they are at the heart of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Here's a map showing where the separatist regions are located:

1:27 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

President Biden is monitoring developments coming out of Putin's national security meeting

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden delivers remarks from the White House on February 18.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks from the White House on February 18. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Biden has been monitoring developments emerging from Russian President Vladimir Putin's national security meeting Monday, according to aides, as he confers with his own top officials about the Ukraine crisis.

Top officials from the United States — including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and CIA Director Bill Burns — have all been seen arriving at the White House on Monday, despite the fact it's a federal holiday.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who returned Sunday evening from the Munich Security Conference, is also at the White House.

President Biden was not expected to appear in public.

During overnight hours officials from the US downplayed the likelihood of a summit between Biden and Putin, saying that the prospect of a Russian invasion into Ukraine would make such a meeting unlikely. Additionally, it's been noted that there's been no work done on location, format, or timing of a summit.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan has warned that Russia could be preparing for a conflict even more brutal than some initial estimates.

"We believe that any military operation of this size, scope, and magnitude of what we believe the Russians are planning will be extremely violent. It will cost the lives of Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military personnel alike," said Sullivan, who appeared Monday on NBC's "Today Show."

"But we also have intelligence to suggest that there will be an even greater form of brutality because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies: It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people, to repress them, to crush them, to harm them," Sullivan continued.

Speaking on ABC, Sullivan shared that, "all signs look like President Putin and the Russians are proceeding with a plan to execute a major military invasion of Ukraine, making clear that an attack could begin at any moment and the step toward invasion were underway."

1:12 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Israel says it is moving Kyiv embassy activities to Lviv "following situation assessment"

From CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Yair Lapid announced on Monday that “following situation assessment” and after “discussions with various international actors," he has decided to instruct staff at the Israeli Embassy in Kyiv to move to consular offices opened in Lviv in western Ukraine.

“The consular office in Lviv has been working to provide travel documents to Israeli citizens since Thursday (17/02/2022) and will assist citizens interested in leaving the country, primarily through land border crossings to neighbouring countries,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

The ministry added that the “Foreign Ministry is prepared for any development, including the possibility of a land exit. Within this framework, Israeli diplomats stationed in Lviv as well as those serving in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary have held visits to border crossings with Ukraine, and meetings with the authorities at the crossings, in order to ensure the passage of Israeli citizens who wish to leave Ukraine.”

1:19 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Putin expected to deliver an address soon, Russian state news agencies report 

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with members of his Security Council in Moscow on February 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with members of his Security Council in Moscow on February 21. (Sputnik/Kremlin/Pool/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin will deliver an address soon, Russian state news agencies reported Monday.

The agencies in Russia have cited both Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as well as a banner on state television.

Putin said earlier Monday he was considering a request from pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine's breakaway regions to recognize them as independent.

The news comes as the United States says it's seeing Russia continuing to prepare for an invasion into Ukraine, with one US official familiar with the latest intelligence saying there has been “no slowdown.”

12:20 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Austrian chancellor: EU sanctions against Russia in case of Ukraine invasion would include Nord Stream 2

From CNN's Inke Kappeler and Sharon Braithwaite

An exterior view of the receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, on February 2.
An exterior view of the receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, on February 2. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

“Massive” European Union sanctions against Russia in case of a Ukrainian invasion would include the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said on Monday, according to a government spokesperson.  

"The Chancellor said that in case of a Russian military invasion of Ukraine, there would be massive sanctions by EU, and NS II would be affected as well," spokesperson Etienne Berchtold told CNN.  

“Russia would in principle be cut off from the international financial markets” if it invades Ukraine again, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Germany’s ARD public television Sunday evening.  

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Saturday that a package of EU sanctions against Russia has been “wrapped up over the last few days and weeks.”  

More on the pipeline: The 750-mile pipeline was completed in September but has not yet received final certification from German regulators. When up and running, it would boost deliveries of gas directly from Russia to Germany.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and several EU countries have opposed the pipeline since it was announced in 2015, warning the project would increase Moscow's influence in Europe.

CNN's Ivana Kottasová and Charles Riley contributed reporting to this post. 

11:47 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

There is "strong cause for concern" that Putin is "still committed to an invasion," UK defense secretary says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London  

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace leaves 10 Downing Street in London, on February 21.
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace leaves 10 Downing Street in London, on February 21. (Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images)

There is "strong cause for concern" that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "still committed to an invasion" of Ukraine, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace warned on Monday.  

Making a statement to lawmakers in the UK parliament, Wallace said that "all the indicators point to increasing numbers and readiness of Russian forces," highlighting an increase in Russian troop numbers and change in force disposition over the past 48 hours. 

Highlighting that Russia has now massed 65% of its land combat power on the Ukrainian border, Wallace also pointed out the "proliferation of false flag operations, propaganda stunts, and Russian news outlets carrying fictitious allegations." 

"These are not the actions of a Russian government fulfilling its repeated declarations that it has no intention of invading Ukraine. In fact we've seen over the last few weeks, the Russian playbook being implemented in a way that gives a strong cause for concern that President Putin is still committed to an invasion," Wallace told lawmakers.  

The defense secretary urged Putin for "the sake of his own people" to "rule out the invasion of Ukraine" and recommit to diplomatic efforts. 

"We continue to hope […] President Putin will relent and pull back from an invasion, but we must prepare ourselves for the consequences if he does not," Wallace concluded.  

 

11:20 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

White House pushes back on Putin suggestion US offered possibility of "moratorium" on Ukraine NATO membership 

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

A senior administration official says US President Biden has made no assurances or commitments privately to Russian President Vladimir Putin about Ukraine's NATO membership that he hasn't made in public. 

There hasn't been any position change in the US view of NATO's membership, which is that they remain committed to an open door policy for the defense alliance.

Still, as Biden stated most clearly last month, there is no expectation that Ukraine would be able to join NATO anytime soon.

"The likelihood that Ukraine is going to join NATO in the near term is not very likely, based on much more work they have to do in terms of democracy and a few other things going on there, and whether or not the major allies in the West would vote to bring Ukraine in right now," Biden said.

Earlier Monday in a security council meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that Biden had given him an assurance Ukraine would not be admitted to NATO soon and its potential membership might be subject to a moratorium.  

“The American colleague assured me that Ukraine is not going to be admitted [to NATO] tomorrow," Putin said. "Moreover, some kind of moratorium is possible.”

“My answer is simple: We believe that this is not a concession to us, it is simply the implementation of your plans," Putin added.

Before leaving the Munich Security Conference Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters, “NATO is a membership — it is about nations coming together as a group, making decisions collectively, around again, principles, and what will be then the conditions and the standards of membership. And so that is the process. It doesn't happen overnight.”

“No one country can say I want to be in, therefore I will be, and no one country can say you can't be. And isn't that at the heart of the very issue we are presented with in terms of Russia's aggression, or stated aggression towards Ukraine," she continued.

CNN's Nathan Hodge and Anna Chernova contributed reporting from Moscow.

10:39 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

French and Russian foreign ministers will meet on Friday in preparation of potential Macron-Putin meeting

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will travel to Paris to meet with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday to hold preparatory talks for a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a statement from the French Foreign Ministry on Monday.  

The two presidents have accepted the principle of a summit, but Paris has imposed a pre-condition similar to that from Washington. 

“The Minister reiterated that this meeting could only take place if Russia did not invade Ukraine,” the statement said.   

Le Drian also emphasized the need to hold a meeting of the trilateral contact group as soon as possible. 

“The Minister encouraged his Russian counterpart to use his influence with the de facto representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, who are currently refusing to hold this meeting,” the statement read.  

Before coming to Paris, Lavrov is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Geneva on Thursday to hold talks in preparation for a potential meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Putin.  

11:27 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Putin: Our priority is peace, not confrontation, but a Ukraine NATO membership would pose security threat

From CNN's Nada Bashir

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council, in Moscow, Russia, on February 21.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council, in Moscow, Russia, on February 21. (Aleksey Nikolskyi/Sputnik/AP)

Moscow’s priority is to ensure security guarantees are reached with NATO to maintain peace, “not a confrontation,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said Monday, cautioning however that the admission of Ukraine into NATO would pose a security threat to Russia.

“In recent months, at the end of last year, we stepped up our efforts with our main partners in Washington and NATO to finally agree security measures and to ensure the peaceful development of our country. This is our priority, not a confrontation,” Putin said.

“But we must understand the reality we are living in, and I have said many times already that if Russia faces a threat like admitting Ukraine into NATO, then the threat against our country will be multiplied,” he added.

Speaking during a meeting of Russia’s Security Council in Moscow, Putin noted that “using Ukraine as a tool of confrontation against Russia is a serious and large threat” to Moscow.

“Russia has always tried to resolve all conflicts by peaceful means. Nevertheless, the Kyiv authorities conducted two punitive operations in these territories [Donetsk and Luhansk], and it seems that we are now witnessing an escalation for the third time,” Putin said.

It is not immediately clear what operations Putin was referring to.

Ukrainian officials have denied what has been described as "disinformation" and "deliberate provocations" by the Russian Federation.