February 22, 2022 Ukraine-Russia crisis news

By Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Jessie Yeung, Brad Lendon, Rob Picheta and Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022
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5:51 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

China evades more than a dozen questions on Ukraine at daily briefing

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin attends a press conference in Beijing on December 2.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin attends a press conference in Beijing on December 2. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

China's Foreign Ministry evaded more than a dozen questions on Ukraine in its daily briefing on Tuesday, sticking closely in its responses to a statement released after Foreign Minister Wang Yi's phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

The 14 questions regarding Ukraine that were asked in the briefing included whether China recognized the independence of the two separatist pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine and whether China would use its influence to prevent a "further incursion" into Ukraine's territory. 

In his responses, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reiterated that any country’s “legitimate security concerns should be respected” and urged all parties to "exercise restraint.”

He re-emphasized that China would contact all parties "based on the merits of the matter" and that the different sides should resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiation. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had earlier expressed "concern" about the situation in Ukraine and said “legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected" during a phone call Blinken, according to a statement from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But Wang Wenbin offered few words beyond that statement during the Tuesday briefing, in keeping with its reluctance to join Western condemnation of Russia in recent days. He was asked how China views potential sanctions against Russia and whether it would help Russia, to which he repeated that countries should exercise restraint and resolve differences through negotiation to “prevent further escalate the situation.”

Wang was also asked whether China sees parallels between Ukraine and Taiwan, to which he responded it is an “irrefutable historical and legal fact” that there is "only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” referring back to its "One-China" principle. 

The China-Russia relationship: Beijing is navigating a complex position as it attempts to balance deepening ties with Moscow with its practiced foreign policy of staunchly defending state sovereignty.

Though not military allies, China and Russia have been presenting an increasingly united front in the face of what they view as Western interference into their respective affairs and regions.

9:29 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Europe wrangles over sanctions in response to Putin's move

Analysis by CNN's Luke McGee

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s extraordinary address on Monday evening, talk in Europe has turned to whether or not the European Union will maintain its hardline position on not-yet-public sanctions. 

The EU’s position matters because, until now, the West’s position in this crisis has been heavily coordinated.

NATO has led the military and political organization whereas the EU, the world’s largest economic union, has proposed a package of sanctions that would do serious damage to the Russian economy, Putin’s associates and undermine Moscow’s grip on the Russian sphere of influence. 

One NATO official told CNN last week that without the EU’s sanctions proposals “the Western response would unquestionably have been much weaker.”

But fears emerged on Monday night that the EU would put forward a less severe package in order to keep diplomatic options open and deescalate.

Putin’s decision to send troops into two separatist pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine, and recognize them as independent, has put the West in a very difficult position as it determines whether or not what happened on Monday counts as a full invasion or not. 

According to a senior EU diplomat, thinking as of Tuesday morning is that the West needs to take severe action against Putin for his most recent actions, but keep the option open to go further should Putin escalate again. 

“They’re looking at a package of sanctions that is still under the remit of the 2014 sanctions package,’ after Russia annexed Crimea, the diplomat explained.

They said that all of this was being done in full coordination with the US and UK, but that “keeping a lot of sticks in our back pocket makes sense.” 

The diplomat added that the “package presented today needs to be heavy enough to really hurt but to keep the package with massive consequences and costs available in the case of escalation.”

However, they admitted that we are not likely to see the new, maximum damage sanctions package in response to Putin’s most recent aggression. 

The UK is also expected to put forward a sanctions package today and has publicly taken a very firm line against Putin. 

Obviously, things are fluid and subject to change, not least because no one knows what Putin’s next move will be. However, the Russian president’s surprise move on Monday has put the Western alliance in a difficult position of not knowing how far to go in response.

5:24 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Putin has shown his "true face," Ukrainian defense minister says

From CNN’s Ivana Kottasová and Yulia Kesaieva in Kyiv, and Radina Gigova in Atlanta

Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a document recognizing the independence of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine on February 21 in Moscow, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a document recognizing the independence of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine on February 21 in Moscow, Russia. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik/AP)

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin has “shown his true face," accusing him of wanting to “hold the free world hostage.”

In a statement addressed directly to members of Ukraine’s armed forces, Reznikov said “the Kremlin has taken another step towards the revival of the Soviet Union.” 

“The darkness of uncertainty has fallen. What you have known for eight years, the whole world has now seen,” he said in the statement posted on the ministry’s website. 

Reznikov accused the Russian president of “waging a vile war all these years, hiding behind women and children.”

“The crime will certainly be punished. Thanks to you, Europe has realized the real cost of avoiding honest answers,” he said.

Putin delivered a lengthy televised address on Monday evening, announcing his decision to recognize the independence of separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine and ordering Russian forces to be sent in.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said on Monday that by recognizing the "quasi-entities it had created" in Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia "has blatantly defied the fundamental norms and principles of international law."

The ministry said Russia had "violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders," and urged the international community to apply sanctions.

The ministry condemned the move in their Tuesday statement, saying it "sharply escalates the situation and can mean the Russian Federation’s unilateral withdrawal from the Minsk agreements," the 2015 pact that established a shaky ceasefire in the region and banned heavy weapons near the Line of Contact.

"The Ukrainian side understands Russia’s intentions and its objective to provoke Ukraine," the ministry said.

The statement also urged the West to apply heavy financial pressure on Russia to prevent further aggression.

"The Russian Federation’s next decisions and moves depend greatly on global reactions to today’s developments. We therefore insist on application against Russia of harsh sanctions to send a clear signal of inadmissibility of further escalation," the ministry said. "The time has come to act in order to stop Russian aggression and restore peace and stability in Europe."

9:29 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

EU will impose sanctions on Russia, says French foreign minister

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks at an event in Paris, France, on February 22. 
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks at an event in Paris, France, on February 22.  (Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union will impose sanctions on Moscow following the “unacceptable” entry of Russian troops into the Donbas region of Ukraine, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tuesday.

“Obviously we are going to initiate sanctions,” Le Drian said ahead of a meeting of European foreign ministers in Paris. 

“It’s a violation of international law, it’s an attack on the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, it’s Russia renouncing its international commitments and the Minsk accords that it had signed," Le Drian said. "So the situation is very serious.”

He added that European leaders had three messages to convey — taking a firm stance against Russia's actions, showing solidarity with Ukraine, and showing unity in Europe.

EU High Representative Joseph Borrell said Tuesday morning that he had called an emergency informal meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss Ukraine following a planned summit.

3:24 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

European markets fall at open on escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia

European markets have fallen sharply in the opening minutes of trade as the crisis in Ukraine intensifies. The German Dax and the French Cac 40 were both trading around 2% lower in early trade, while the UK FTSE 100 was around 1% down. 

The falls follow a sharp sell-off in Asian markets on Tuesday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 1.9%, and Korea's Kospi lost 1.4%.

China's Shanghai Composite and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 were both down more than 1%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 3.2%, poised to post the biggest daily loss in five months. New concerns over China's tech crackdown further dented the sentiment in Asia.

The plunge in Asia was preceded by a similar drop for US stock futures earlier on Monday evening local time. Dow futures were down 458 points, or 1.4%. S&P 500 futures were down about 2.3%, while Nasdaq futures were down 3.3%.

9:28 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

European Union will decide on sanctions against Russia "this afternoon," says high representative

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris and Pierre Bairin in Brussels

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell attends the Indo-Pacific Ministerial Cooperation Forum as part of the French EU Council Presidency in Paris, France, on February 22.
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell attends the Indo-Pacific Ministerial Cooperation Forum as part of the French EU Council Presidency in Paris, France, on February 22. (Christophe Archambaul/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union will decide on what sanctions to impose on Russia “this afternoon,” EU High Representative Joseph Borrell told reporters on Tuesday.

Borrell said he has called for an emergency informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers this afternoon to discuss the European response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ordering Russian troops into two separatist pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine after recognizing their independence on Monday.

“Obviously this response will take the form of sanctions,” Borrell said, “We must act quickly, and that means this afternoon.”

“I wouldn’t say that this is a fully-fledged invasion but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil,” he added. 

3:05 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

China's foreign minister says Beijing is "concerned" about the escalating Ukraine situation

From CNN’s Yong Xiong

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed "concern" about the situation in Ukraine in a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to a statement Tuesday from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“China is concerned about (the) evolution of situation in Ukraine,” and the “legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected,” Wang said during the call. 

“The purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld,” Wang said, adding that the situation in Ukraine is "closely related to the delay" in implementing the Minsk agreement, referring to a 2015 set of protocols designed to end conflict in eastern Ukraine but which have never been been fully implemented.

China urged all parties to "exercise restraint, recognize the importance of implementing the principle of indivisible security, ease the situation and resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation,” Wang said, according to the statement.

He added that China will continue its contact with "all parties based on the merits of the matter."

The China-Russia friendship: Beijing is navigating a complex position as it attempts to balance deepening ties with Moscow with its practiced foreign policy of staunchly defending state sovereignty.

Though not military allies, China and Russia have been presenting an increasingly united front in the face of what they view as Western interference into their respective affairs and regions.

Read more:

2:38 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Ukraine's defense minister: "We remain confident and calm"

From CNN's Akanksha Sharma

Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov holds a briefing in Kyiv on Feb. 3.
Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov holds a briefing in Kyiv on Feb. 3. (Volodymyr Tarasov/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said early Tuesday that “we remain confident and calm,” following Russia’s move to order troops into two separatist pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine.

In a tweet early Tuesday on his official account, Reznikov added that by recognizing the two regions as independent on Monday, the “Kremlin recognized its own aggression against Ukraine.”

"We are ready and able to defend ourselves and our sovereignty," he added.
2:32 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Finland warns Russia's actions are "a serious breach" of Minsk agreements

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz in London

In a statement Monday, Finland President Sauli Niinistö condemned Russia's move to order troops into two separatist-held pro-Moscow regions of eastern Ukraine.

Russia's actions "violate Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said the statement from the president's office, adding that it marked “a serious breach of the Minsk agreements."

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 the conflict settled into static warfare along the Line of Contact that separates the Ukrainian government and separatist-controlled areas.

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