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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3:50 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Russia will be cut off from international financial markets if it attacks Ukraine, says EU Commission president

From CNN's Chris Liakos

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, speaks at the 58th Munich Security Conference. on Feb. 19.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, speaks at the 58th Munich Security Conference. on Feb. 19. (Tobias Hase/picture alliance/Getty Images)

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

Measures would hit “all goods we make that Russia urgently needs to modernize and diversify its economy, where we are globally dominant and they have no replacement,” she added.

“It is very clear that if (Russian President Vladimir) Putin starts a war, we will answer with the most powerful instrument that we have and at the weakest point that Russia has: with economic and financial sanctions,” von der Leyen said.

Russia’s “clear weak point" is an economy based on fossil fuel energy, she said, with two thirds of exports being oil, coal and gas.

She urged Russia to “come back to the negotiating table," but affirmed that “if Putin picks a quarrel, we will answer with massive consequences."

3:18 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Putin-Biden summit "will not happen before Thursday," French EU minister says

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune speaks at the European Parliament on Feb. 16.
French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune speaks at the European Parliament on Feb. 16. (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said a summit between the US and Russian presidents “will not happen before Thursday.”

He made the comments to French broadcaster LCI on Monday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due to speak with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on Monday and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Thursday. 

Beaune described these meetings as “preparatory meetings” for a summit between the two presidents.

“We will see the situation” following those discussions, he said. 

The Russian and US leaders have agreed in principle to a bilateral meeting to discuss the tensions around Ukraine, following calls with French President Emmanuel Macron, including three hours of discussion with Putin, according to Beaune. 

“Diplomatic hope has been restored” by Macron, he said.

3:03 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US writes to UN human rights commissioner highlighting concerns over Russia’s purported list of Ukrainians "to be killed or sent to camps"

From CNN's Richard Roth and Kylie Atwood

The US has written to the top United Nations human rights official that it has credible information that Russia has been identifying Ukrainians "to be killed or sent to camps" if it further invades Ukraine and occupies it, according to a letter to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights obtained by CNN.

The letter is signed by Ambassador Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the US representative to the office of the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, and addressed to Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights.

Crocker alleges "disturbing information recently obtained by the United States that indicates that human rights violations and abuses in the aftermath of a further invasion are being planned."

"These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, unjust detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons," reads the letter.
"We also have credible information that Russian forces will likely use lethal measures to disperse peaceful protests or otherwise counter peaceful exercises of perceived resistance from civilian populations."

The letter did not say how the US obtained the information.

Crocker added that the aim for sharing this information with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was to give “an early warning that a further Russian invasion of Ukraine may create a human rights catastrophe.” 

She said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised these concerns to the Security Council on Feb. 17. "In particular, he stated that the United States has information that indicates Russia will target specific groups of Ukrainians," Crocker added.

3:24 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

EU supports further talks with Russia over Ukraine, EU's top diplomat says

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks with the media in Brussels on Monday.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks with the media in Brussels on Monday. (Virginia Mayo/AP)

The European Union supports the latest attempt to arrange further talks between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, said on Monday.

“Summits, meetings at the level of ministers, at the level of leaders, whatever format, whatever way of talking and sitting at the table and trying to avoid the war is badly needed and we will support anything that can make diplomatic conversations the best way – the only way – to look for a solution to the crisis,” he said
“As many diplomatic doors one could imagine should be mobilized."

US President Joe Biden has agreed "in principle" to French-brokered summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin as long as Russia does not further invade Ukraine, the White House said late Sunday.

The meeting, according to press secretary Jen Psaki, would occur after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet on Feb. 24.

11:43 p.m. ET, February 20, 2022

Monday catch-up

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Ukraine-Russia crisis.

US President Joe Biden has agreed "in principle" to a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin as long as Russia does not further invade Ukraine, according to the White House. The potential meeting was brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron amid renewed US warnings that war is imminent.

Here are some of the latest headlines to bring you up to speed:

  • A White House official says Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will discuss a possible summit between Biden and Putin when they meet on Feb. 24 — but only "if the invasion hasn’t started by then — in which case it’s all off."
  • Macron spoke with Putin in two calls on Sunday. He also spoke with Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in separate calls, in a “last-ditch effort to avert a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the Élysée Palace said.
  • The US has intelligence indicating orders have been sent to Russian commanders to proceed with an attack on Ukraine, according to two US officials and another source familiar with the US intelligence. 
  • It comes as new Maxar satellite imagery shows intensified activity among Russian units close to Ukraine's northeastern border, with units that were in garrisons appearing to take up field positions. 
  • And according to the latest US intelligence assessment, Russia now has close to 75% of its conventional forces postured against Ukraine, a US official with direct knowledge of the intelligence told CNN. 
  • The Ukrainian Joint Forces Command on Sunday claimed Russian-backed separatists launched "heavy armament fire" against their own territory in an effort to "falsely accuse the armed forces of Ukraine and further escalate the situation." 
  • Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov on Sunday told CBS “Face the Nation” that, “There is no invasion and there is no such plan."
11:38 p.m. ET, February 20, 2022

French President proposes Biden-Putin summit during call with Biden, Elysée says 

From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey, Samantha Beech, Kaitlin Collins and Matthew Chance

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed a summit between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Elysée Palace said in a statement.

The statement said the potential summit can only be held “if Russia does not invade Ukraine.”

Macron and Biden spoke by phone for around 15 minutes to discuss the situation in Ukraine on Sunday.

The French presidency also said Macron had two calls with Putin on Sunday. 

The Elysée said Macron proposed a summit on security and strategic stability in Europe with Biden and Putin, and then with all other stakeholders. The statement did not name those stakeholders, but said Macron would work with them to prepare the content of these discussions. 

The Elysée claimed both Biden and Putin agreed to the summit “on principle."

Biden has agreed "in principle" to a meeting with Putin as long as Russia does not further invade Ukraine, according to a statement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

CNN has reached out to the Kremlin to ask about the agreement in principle for a summit, but did not receive an immediate response.

The Elysée said the content of the summit will be prepared by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their planned meeting on Feb. 24. CNN is yet to confirm this assertion from the French presidency. 

12:14 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

President Biden agrees to meet with Putin "in principle" as long as Russia does not invade Ukraine

From CNN’s Sam Fossum and Arlette Saenz

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

President Joe Biden has agreed "in principle" to a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin as long as Russia does not further invade Ukraine, according to a statement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

This potential summit, according to an Elysee Palace statement, was proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.  

The meeting, according to Psaki, would happen after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet on Feb. 24. 

 "President Biden accepted in principle a meeting with President Putin following that engagement, again, if an invasion hasn’t happened," Psaki said in a written statement on Sunday night. 
"We are always ready for diplomacy. We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war. And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon."

12:10 a.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Satellite imagery shows Russian ground forces dispersing to positions close to the Ukraine border

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv and Paul Murphy

Overview of helicopter deployment battle group and troops, Valuyki, Russia.
Overview of helicopter deployment battle group and troops, Valuyki, Russia. (Maxar Technologies)

New satellite imagery shows intensified activity among Russian units close to Ukraine's northeastern border, with units that were in garrisons appearing to take up field positions.

The satellite images were collected by Maxar on Sunday.

Maxar assesses that "multiple new field deployments of armored equipment and troops have been observed northwest of Belgorod and near Soloti and Valuyki, Russia."

These towns are within 35 kilometers (around 21 miles) of the Russian border with Ukraine.

Maxar observes, "This new activity represents a change in the pattern of the previously observed deployments of battle groups (tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and support equipment). Until recently, most of the deployments had been seen primarily positioned at or near existing military garrisons and training areas."

“Today (Sunday) most of the combat units and support equipment at Soloti have departed and extensive vehicle tracks and some convoys of armored equipment are seen throughout the area."

The images show that encampments or staging grounds that contained substantial forces last Sunday, February 13, are now relatively empty.

"Some equipment has also been deployed east of nearby Valuyki, Russia in a field approximately 15 kilometers north of the Ukraine border," Maxar noted.

Separately, CNN has geolocated several videos from the region over the weekend that show long columns including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and howitzers moving through rural areas in the Belgorod oblast (district).

"A number of new field deployments are also seen northwest of Belgorod (deployments are approximately 30 kilometers from the border with Ukraine) with much of the equipment and troops positioned in or near forested areas," Maxar observed.

The images show extensive tracks where armor has moved across the countryside.

"Other company-sized units are deployed within farm and/or industrial areas."

CNN has observed that some tanks and other vehicles in the area appears to have been marked with a large "Z" -- suggesting they are being formed into a fighting unit.

11:37 p.m. ET, February 20, 2022

Pentagon press secretary says "we still think there's time to prevent" a Russian invasion of Ukraine

From CNN's Sarah Fortinsky

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby doubled down on the Biden administration's strategy of using the threat of sanctions as a deterrent and rejected increased calls for imposing pre-invasion sanctions, saying, "[Russian President Vladimir Putin] has not conducted another invasion in Ukraine yet, and we still think there's time to prevent that."

"It's supposed to be a deterrent. If you punish somebody for something they haven't done yet, then they might as well just go ahead and do it," Kirby added. "And we're hoping that that could affect the calculous of Mr. Putin."

Kirby said on "Fox News Sunday" that Putin still has many options on the table if he chooses to take a diplomatic off-ramp to the tensions, saying, "We have made serious proposals and talked about changing, for instance, the scope and scale of some of our exercises in Europe, being willing to talk about offensive missile capabilities in Europe. We have certainly put forward other proposals to try to convince Mr. Putin that we're serious."

Kirby made clear the issue of Ukraine's membership in NATO, however, is "an issue for Ukraine and for NATO. That is not something that Mr. Putin can simply institute a veto over or decide for himself, that kind of thing is again between the alliance and Ukraine."

Some context: Kirby would not address individual claims made by Putin, but he characterized them as "outrageous claims" and said, on the whole, "these are just not credible."

He said that Putin is "playing the victim," which he said is exactly out of the "Russian playbook."

"It is absolutely right out of the Russian playbook. He may be moving Xs and Os around the field right now militarily, but it seems like he's using the same old playbook," Kirby said, adding, "And I don't want to make light of this analogy. This isn't a football game. This is potentially war and lives are at stake here."