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
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6:36 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Putin moves in eastern Ukraine opening salvo to possible large-scale invasion, US and western officials say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood, Jennifer Hansler, Jim Sciutto and Alex Marquardt

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to recognize breakaway eastern Ukrainian territories as independent appears to be the opening salvo of a larger potential military operation targeting Ukraine, nearly a dozen US and western officials tell CNN.  

“This is Potemkin politics,” a senior administration official told reporters on Monday. “President Putin is accelerating the very conflict that he's created.”

The US expects Russian troops could move into the Donbas region of Ukraine as soon as Monday evening or Tuesday, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two pro-Moscow territories as independent, a senior US official familiar with latest intelligence tells CNN. 

The US is still seeing preparations for a potential invasion including loading amphibious ships and loading equipment for airborne units.

The US and western officials said Putin’s decision to sign the decree, which proclaims that the Russia-backed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) are independent territories, has given Putin the justification he wanted to send in Russian forces and potentially wage a broader assault on Ukraine in the name of protecting the separatist regions. 

The Kremlin announced on Monday evening that Russia would be sending “peacekeeping” forces into the breakaway territories, confirming many officials’ worst fears.  

“That’s your invasion,” said one European diplomat. “If we don’t act on this as we have said we would in case of a further invasion, we will have seriously undermined our credibility,” the diplomat said.  

Still, in a call with reporters, the senior administration official suggested to reporters that the mere movement of new Russian “peacekeeping” forces into eastern Ukraine would not itself trigger the full sanctions package the administration has threatened in the event of a Russian invasion, noting that “there have been Russian forces present in these areas” since 2014.  

“So we're going to be looking very closely at what they do over the coming hours and days and our response will be measured, according, again, to their actions,” the official said. The official said “it now looks like Russia will be operating openly in that region, and we will be responding accordingly.”

The official would not identify what line Russian troops would have to cross in Eastern Ukraine to be considered a new invasion. 

The White House said on Monday that Biden would impose new financial restrictions on the breakaway republics, and a senior administration official told reporters that more actions would be announced on Tuesday. But some officials say the penalties do not go far enough — especially considering Biden’s claim last month that if “any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion” and “will be met with severe and coordinated economic response.”

CNN's Oren Liebermann, Katie Bo Lillis and Sebastian Shukla contributed to this report.

6:25 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US official says Biden-Putin summit is unlikely

From CNN's DJ Judd

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A summit between US President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely, a senior administration official told reporters Monday, following intelligence and indications on the ground that Russia is likely to take military action in neighboring Ukraine.

On Sunday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden agreed "in principle" to a meeting with Putin sometime after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet on Thursday — as long as Russia does not further invade Ukraine.

But the official said that while the Biden administration was open to further engagements between the two leaders, “if we thought it made sense and could have a beneficial impact on the crisis,” intelligence reports indicating further Russian military action would preclude any leader-to-leader summit.

“Our strong sense, based on everything that we are seeing on the ground in the areas around the Ukraine to the north, to the east, to the south, is that Russia is continuing to prepare for military action that could take place in the coming hours or days,” the official told reporters, adding the administration “certainly can't commit to a meeting that has as a predicate that Russia won't take military action, when it looks as eminently like they will.”
6:14 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Germany, France and US agree recognition of separatist areas "will not go unanswered," German official says

From Sharon Braithwaite and Nadine Schmidt

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden have agreed that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decrees recognizing two separatist pro-Moscow regions in Ukraine as independent “will not go unanswered," Scholz’s spokesperson said. 

In a statement Monday, Scholz’s spokesperson said Scholz spoke to Biden and Macron on Monday evening about the "deteriorating situation" after the Russian President formally recognized the two so-called People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk on Monday.

"All three parties agreed that this unilateral move by Russia is a clear breach of the Minsk Agreement. Germany, France and the US sharply condemned the Russian President's decision. This move will not go unanswered," the spokesperson said.

Scholz, Biden and Macron expressed their solidarity with Ukraine and commended Ukraine's cautious response to date, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, he added.

"The partners agreed not to let up in their commitment to Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. At the same time, every effort will be made to prevent the situation from escalating further," the spokesperson concluded. 

6:10 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Ukraine requests UN Security Council meeting, Ukrainian foreign minister says 

From CNN's Aliza Kassim Khalidi

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has asked the UN Security Council for an urgent meeting, according to a tweet in the early hours of Tuesday morning local time. 

“Ukraine has requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council due to Russia’s illegal actions. We have already sent the request to the Council," Kuleba tweeted.

See the tweet here:

6:03 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Blinken: "We will take appropriate steps" in response to Putin's recognition of separatist regions

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

(Ina Fassbender/Pool/AP/FILE)
(Ina Fassbender/Pool/AP/FILE)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as independent “represents a complete rejection of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements."

In statement Monday, Blinken added that the move "directly contradicts Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy, and is a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“President Biden will sign an executive order that will prohibit all new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called 'Donetsk and Luhansk People's republics' regions of Ukraine," Blinken said.

“We will continue to coordinate with Ukraine and our Allies and partners to take appropriate steps in response to this unprovoked and unacceptable action by Russia. The EO [executive order] is designed to prevent Russia from profiting off of this blatant violation of international law. It is not directed at the people of Ukraine or the Ukrainian government and will allow humanitarian and other related activity to continue in these regions,” he said.

6:21 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US official says Russia is preparing for invasion, but diplomacy will be pursued "until the tanks roll"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

Russian troops continue preparations for an invasion of Ukraine, but diplomacy will be pursued "until the tanks roll," a senior US administration official says. 

"Russian troops have continued to move closer to the border," the official said, saying they see plans being laid for an invasion "at any moment."

The official acknowledged Russian President Vladimir Putin's order of "peacekeeping" troops to enter Moscow-claimed regions in eastern Ukraine, but said the US would respond to Russian actions and not words. 

"We will observe and assess what actions Russia actually takes and respond accordingly," the official said.

The official declined to provide additional information or confirmation of Russian troops entering Ukraine, but said the US was closely observing events on the ground.

And the official noted that Russian troops operating in these regions wasn't a new phenomenon.

"This has been the state of affairs in that region" since 2014, the official said.

The official said the US would take additional actions to respond to Russia's recognition of the breakaway territories on Tuesday.

"We will take further measures tomorrow to hold Russia accountable for this clear violation of international law and Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity," the official said.

Watch CNN's Oren Liebermann report on the Pentagon reaction to Putin's remarks:

5:45 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US official: Russian troops could move into separatist regions in coming hours

From CNN's Jim Sciutto

The US expects Russian troops could move as soon as tonight or tomorrow into Donbas for their so-called “peacekeeping” mission, a senior US official familiar with latest intelligence. 

The US is still seeing preparations for a potential broadening operation including loading amphibious ships and loading equipment for airborne units.

5:31 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Putin orders Russian troops into separatist-held areas of Ukraine

From CNN's Nathan Hodge, Darya Tarasova and Jim Sciutto

(Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin Pool/Sputnik/AP)
(Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin Pool/Sputnik/AP)

A decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday, which recognized two-pro Moscow breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, ordered Russian armed forces into the territories in what it called “peacekeeping functions.”

The US expects Russian troops could move as soon as tonight or tomorrow into Donbas for their so-called “peacekeeping” mission, according to a senior US official familiar with latest intelligence. 

The US is still seeing preparations for a potential broadening operation including loading amphibious ships and loading equipment for airborne units.

5:02 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Foreign secretary says the UK will announce new sanctions on Russia

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrives for an EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee in Brussels on Monday, February 21.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrives for an EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee in Brussels on Monday, February 21. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom will announce new sanctions on Russia on Tuesday, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Monday, following Putin's recognition of separatist regions in Ukraine.

"Tomorrow we will be announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Truss said on her verified Twitter account.

Truss's tweet comes after the White House announced President Biden is planning to impose new restrictions on trade and financing in the two pro-Moscow territories.

The UK toughened its sanctions regime against Russia on Feb. 10, when the new legislation was laid in Parliament.