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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12:40 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

South Korean President: Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

South Korean President Moon Jae-in presides over a meeting at the presidential office in Seoul, on Monday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in presides over a meeting at the presidential office in Seoul, on Monday. (Yonhap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in stressed that Ukraine's sovereignty must be respected and called for peace at a meeting of the country's National Security Council on Tuesday.

“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected and a peaceful resolution through dialogues must be sought after. It’s never desirable for the situation in Ukraine to deteriorate into an armed conflict. It’ll have a big impact politically and economically not only in Europe but also around the world,” said Moon, according to a statement released by the Presidential Blue House.

Moon urged the world to work together to resolve the Ukraine crisis quickly and peacefully, and he promised that South Korea will actively participate in these efforts. He also called for the evacuation of Korean citizens in Ukraine and for "countermeasures" against the expected economic impact of the situation.

In a separate briefing on Tuesday, a spokesperson from the Ministry of National Defense said the South Korean government hadn't yet received any requests for military support from the United States.

“The ministry maintains a close coordination among related agencies while monitoring the development in Ukraine, and continues to maintain cooperation by sharing information with related countries," the spokesperson said.

12:41 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Australia closes embassy operations in Ukraine, orders officials to leave the country

From CNN’s Sophie Jeong and Lizzy Yee in Hong Kong

Australia has temporarily closed its embassy operations in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv “due to the increased risk,” Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said Tuesday.

Australia temporarily suspended its embassy operations in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on February 13, then moved its operations to a temporary office in Lviv before they were temporarily shut down on Tuesday.

In a statement on Tuesday, Payne said the Australian government has directed Australian officials to depart Ukraine and urged all Australians to leave Ukraine “immediately.” She added that Australian officials have been deployed to eastern Poland and Romania to assist Australian citizens seeking to depart Ukraine. 

Condemnation of Russia: The minister also condemned Moscow’s official recognition of two pro-Moscow areas in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. 

She said the Australian government is coordinating closely with the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and other governments around the world to “ensure there are severe costs for Russia’s aggression.”

Australia is “prepared to announce swift and severe sanctions that would target key Russian individuals and entities responsible for undermining Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," she added.
11:48 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Lithuanian Prime Minister: “Putin just put Kafka & Orwell to shame”

From CNN's Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said on Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to recognize two separatist pro-Moscow regions in Ukraine puts “Kafka & Orwell to shame”.

In a tweet on her official account, Šimonytė wrote, ��Putin just put Kafka & Orwell to shame: no limits to dictator's imagination, no lows too low, no lies too blatant, no red lines too red to cross.”

She added, “What we witnessed tonight might seem surreal for democratic world. But the way we respond will define us for the generations to come.”

Echoing the sentiment, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a tweetMonday that Russia’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk “proves a total contempt for international law & UN charters.”

He added that Russia “must be recognised for what it is: a state outside international rules & civilised norms," and he called for other nations to respond with sanctions.

11:34 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Russia says they recognized pro-Moscow regions of Ukraine to protect residents from a "bloodbath"

Russia’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as independent did not take place “suddenly" and instead was a decision to “to protect and preserve" residents in those regions, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday.

In translated remarks to the United Nations Security Council during an emergency meeting, Vassily Nebenzia referred to the regions as the "Luhansk People's Republic" (LPR) and the "Donetsk People's Republic" (DPR).

“It should be remembered that the DPR and the LPR declared their independence from Ukraine back in 2014. But we only recognize them now, despite the high-level of support for doing so both in the republics themselves and in Russian society from the very beginning,” Nebenzia said. 

He claimed that at the time, Ukraine was “talking to their own citizens in the east in the language of cannons and shooting and threats and shelling.” 

“Time and again, we firmly asked Kyiv to listen to the aspirations of the people living in Donbas and the Russian-speaking residents of the country to respect their entirely legitimate desire to use their mother tongue and to teach their children in that language,” Nebenzia said. 

Some context on Donbas: War broke out in 2014 after Russian-backed rebels seized government buildings in towns and cities across eastern Ukraine.

Intense fighting left portions of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts in the hands of Russian-backed separatists.

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

The Minsk agreement: In 2015, the Minsk II agreement led to a shaky ceasefire, and the conflict settled into static warfare along the Line of Contact that separates the Ukrainian government and separatist-controlled areas. The Minsk Agreements (named after the capital of Belarus where they were concluded) ban heavy weapons near the Line of Contact.

At the meeting on Monday, Nebenzia reiterated earlier claims that Russia was not a party to the Minsk agreement.

"We remain open to diplomacy for a diplomatic solution. However, allowing a bloodbath in the Donbas is something we do not intend to do," he said. “The main aim of our decision was to protect and preserve those people, and that is more important than all of your threats."

Read more here:

11:38 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Ukrainian ambassador to the UN: The entire UN is "under attack" by Russia's actions

At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday, the Ukraine ambassador to the UN condemned Russia's decision to recognize pro-Moscow regions of Ukraine as "illegal and illegitimate."

"Today the entire membership of the United Nations is under attack," said Sergiy Kyslytsya. "The internationally recognized borders of Ukraine have been and will remain unchangeable, regardless of any actions and statements by the Russian federation.

"The political leadership of the Russian federation shall bear full responsibility for the outcomes of the decision taken," he added. "Recognition of the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine may be considered as unilateral withdrawal by Russia from the Minsk agreement."

What is the Minsk agreement? The 2015 agreement was hammered out in the Belarusian capital in a bid to end what was then a bloody 10-month conflict in eastern Ukraine. It led to a shaky ceasefire, and and the conflict settled into static warfare along the Line of Contact that separates the Ukrainian government and separatist-controlled areas.

The agreements ban heavy weapons near the Line of Contact -- but it was never fully implemented and key issues remain unresolved.

Call for UN action: At the Monday meeting, Kyslytsya called for other nations to take action. "It is critical to see now who is our true friend and partner, who is on the side of the UN charter, and who will continue to deter Russia by words only," he said.

He called for Russia to withdraw its troops from the region and cancel its recognition of the two pro-Moscow regions of Ukraine, before echoing the words spoken earlier in the day by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: "We are on our land. We are not afraid of anything or anyone. We owe nothing to anyone. And we will not give away anything to anyone."

11:03 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

US Secretary of State Blinken has not yet canceled meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has not canceled his meeting on Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov as of Monday evening, two US State Department officials told CNN -- although top officials have been discussing that decision throughout the day. 

Biden administration officials said they are going to watch what Russia does closely overnight and prepare a significant response on Tuesday.

Part of that response could include a decision about the meeting in Geneva, because the US has already said that it will not happen if Russia further invades Ukraine.

Some context: Russia said earlier Monday it was sending in “peacekeepers” to the Donbas region after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of pro-Moscow regions in Ukraine as independent. US officials believe Russia is still seeking and planning a full invasion of Ukraine. 

The State Department said Monday evening that Russia would have to change its course for diplomacy to be successful.

“As we have said, we are committed to finding a diplomatic resolution that avoids a brutal and costly conflict, but diplomacy cannot succeed unless Russia changes course," said a State Department spokesperson, adding that Putin's actions in Monday “constitute a major escalation."
11:32 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

India calls for "constructive diplomacy" and "restraint" at emergency UN meeting

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

(UNTV)
(UNTV)

India called for “restraint on all sides” at an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday, saying “constructive diplomacy is the need of the hour" as tensions escalate between Ukraine and Russia.

India's permanent representative to the United Nations, TS Tirumurti, said India was “closely following the evolving developments" at the meeting in New York.

“The escalation of tensions along the border of Ukraine with the Russian Federation is a matter of deep concern. These developments have the potential to undermine peace and security of the region," Tirumurti said.
"We strongly emphasize the vital need for all sides to maintain international peace and security by exercising the utmost restraint and intensifying diplomatic efforts to ensure that a mutually amicable solution is arrived at the earliest."

He added that space needed to be given “to recent initiatives undertaken by parties which seek to diffuse tensions.” Notably, Tirumurti did not reference Ukraine's sovereignty, and his comments stopped short of outright condemnation of Russian actions.

Evacuation order for Indians: The safety of the 20,000 Indian students and nationals living and studying in Ukraine “is of priority to us," Tirumurti said.

The Indian government on Monday announced that families of Indian Embassy officials stationed in Ukraine have been asked to "move back to India," according to a source familiar with the matter inside the Ministry of External Affairs. 

The first of three Air India flights scheduled this week between Ukraine and India departs on Tuesday.

11:06 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

Japan condemns Russia's recognition of pro-Moscow regions in Ukraine

From CNN’s Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Tuesday condemned Russia's recognition of two pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine, and said Tokyo plans to coordinate with other nations on sanctions against Moscow.

"Our country will monitor the situation with grave concern and coordinate with the G7 and international community on strict responses, which includes sanctions," Hayashi told reporters at a news conference.

Also on Tuesday, the Japanese Embassy in Ukraine issued a statement on its website urging Japanese nationals in the country to evacuate immediately.

G7 summit: Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will attend an online summit of the G7 nations — hosted by Germany — on Thursday to discuss Ukraine, according to Japan's chief cabinet secretary Matsuno Hirokazu.

10:29 p.m. ET, February 21, 2022

China ambassador to the UN calls for "a diplomatic solution" in terse statement

(UNTV)
(UNTV)

China released a terse statement at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, with the Chinese ambassador to the UN saying "all parties concerned must exercise restraint and avoid any action that may fuel tensions."

"We welcome and encourage every effort for and call on all parties concerned to continue dialogue and consultation and seek reasonable solutions to address each other's concerns, on the basis of equality and mutual respect," said Zhang Jun in a statement that was significantly shorter than those of the council's major powers. 

"The current situation in Ukraine is the result of many complex factors. China always makes its own position according to the merits of the matter itself. We believe that all countries should solve international disputes by peaceful means in line with the purposes and principles of the UN charter," he said. 

A difficult position: The crisis in Ukraine has put China in a tough spot, as it tries to balance its friendship with Russia with its practiced foreign policy of staunchly defending state sovereignty.

US response: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi about the Ukraine-Russia situation, said a statement released by the State Department. "The Secretary underscored the need to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," the statement said.