Russia attacks Ukraine

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Rob Picheta, Ed Upright, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 9:58 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022
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10:46 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Ukraine's parliament says it is "dealing with a cyberattack" on its website

From CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London and Tim Lister in Kyiv

Ukraine’s parliament is currently “dealing with a cyberattack” on its website, a member of its parliamentary press team confirmed to CNN Wednesday. 

Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov also said in his Telegram channel Wednesday that another mass distributed denial of service attack began at about 4 p.m. local time.

According to Fedorov, the DDoS attack was reported by a number of banks, and there have been problems with access to government websites. This is due to the switching of traffic to another provider to minimize the damage from the attack. 

Internet monitor NetBlocks tweeted that Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Security Service and Cabinet office websites have been “impacted by network disruptions.”

“The incident appears consistent with recent DDoS attacks,” NetBlocks added. 

More background: On Feb. 16, a high-volume cyberattack that temporarily blocked access to the websites of Ukrainian defense agencies and banks was "the largest [such attack] in the history of Ukraine," according to a government minister.

11:03 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Here's a look at the area in eastern Ukraine where the Latvian PM says Russia is moving troops

Russian troops have moved into the eastern region of Ukraine that Russia has now recognized as "independent," according to the Prime Minister of NATO member Latvia and sources familiar with the latest US intelligence assessments.

Read more about why the Donbas region is at the heart of the crisis.

Take a look at this map of the area:

10:47 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Russian troops moving some forces and tanks into eastern Ukraine, Latvian prime minister says

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis and Jim Sciutto

Russian troops have moved into the eastern region of Ukraine that Russia has now recognized as “independent,” according the prime minister of NATO member Latvia and sources familiar with US intelligence. 

“According to the information at my disposal, Putin is moving additional forces and tanks into the occupied Donbas territories,” Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Wednesday. “By any definition that’s a crossing of a sovereign territory into a neighboring country.”

Pressed specifically on whether he was referring to the entry of additional Russian troops since Moscow recognized the two separatist regions earlier this week, Kariņš replied: “Yes, according to the information at my disposal, this is exactly what we’re seeing.”

Two other sources familiar with US intelligence confirmed to CNN that additional Russian troops have in fact crossed the border into the Donbas region since Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two regions and issued an order deploying “peacekeepers” into the Donbas on Tuesday.

Russia has deployed one to two so-called battalion tactical groups, Russia’s main combat formation, each of which comprise an average of about 800 troops, according to a senior US official familiar with the latest intelligence.

CNN has not independently verified the presence of additional Russian troops in the Donbas. 

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday described events now underway in Ukraine as "the beginning of a Russian invasion,” but senior administration officials have since declined to confirm whether additional Russian troops had entered into the Donbas — where unmarked Russian forces have propping up separatist fighters since 2014. 

10:37 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Putin expresses "disappointment" with US and NATO reaction during phone call with Turkish president

From Isil Sariyuce, Celine Alkhaldi and Anna Chernova

On a phone call with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his “disappointment” in the reaction by the United States and NATO.

“Putin expressed his disappointment with the reaction of the United States and NATO, which amounted to an attempt to ignore legitimate Russian concerns and demands,” a statement by the Russian Presidency said.

Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s stance on rejecting the steps taken by Putin against Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Turkish presidency said.

Putin discussed “the theme of the development of long-term legal security guarantees for the Russian Federation” and “emphasized the objective necessity of the decision taken in the face of the aggression of the Ukrainian authorities in Donbas and their categorical refusal to comply with the Minsk agreements,” according to the Russian Presidency readout of the phone call.

The Turkish presidential statement said that Erdogan told Putin that “a military conflict will not benefit anyone” and that it will only make things more complex, adding that ”it is important to reach a conclusion on the basis of the Minsk Agreements.”

On Tuesday, Erdogan denounced Putin’s decision to recognize breakaway eastern Ukrainian territories, calling it “unacceptable.”

10:54 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

The White House is expected to allow toughest sanctions on controversial Russian gas pipeline

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Phil Mattingly and Kevin Liptak

The receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Lubmin, Germany, on February 2.
The receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Lubmin, Germany, on February 2. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is expected to announce on Wednesday that it will allow sanctions to move forward on the company in charge of building Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, after blocking such sanctions last year using a national security waiver. 

The move, described by three US officials, is part of a series of penalties the US and its allies have imposed on Russia this week in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of separatist territories in eastern Ukraine as independent. 

The administration decided to move forward with rescinding the national security waiver after Germany on Tuesday announced that it was halting the certification of the pipeline, the official said. Sanctioning Nord Stream 2’s parent company, Nord Stream 2 AG—a registered Swiss firm whose parent company is the Russian gas giant Gazprom—is effectively a death knell to the project, the official added. 

The move marks a significant shift in the administration’s policy toward Nord Stream 2, which had previously been to sanction some of the smaller entities involved in the project— including some Russian companies and ships that have been helping in the construction—but to hold off on sanctioning Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, Matthias Warnig.

US President Joe Biden and the State Department’s top energy official Amos Hochstein, who has been in charge of the diplomacy surrounding Nord Stream, had long been opposed to the project. But the concern was that imposing the harshest penalties on it would crater the US’ relationship with Germany, which insisted the pipeline was just a commercial project.

But now that Germany — after intensive diplomacy with the US — has agreed to halt the pipeline’s certification indefinitely, the US feels freer to allow the congressionally-mandated sanctions to move forward. Essentially, the administration wanted Germany to decide on its own to halt the pipeline before moving forward with more punishing sanctions on the project, the official explained.

The move is likely to be met with bipartisan support — Democratic and Republican lawmakers have long seen the pipeline as a potential threat to Europe because Russia has used its control over energy supplies to pressure countries in Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, by shutting off those supplies, even in winter months. 

Concern in Congress about the pipeline has been acute enough that lawmakers passed legislation with significant bipartisan majorities in 2019, then expanded it in 2020, requiring sanctions against Nord Stream 2.

The administration, last year, waived the toughest sanctions, on Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, on national security grounds, prompting Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to hold up dozens of Biden’s nominees to top national security and ambassador posts. 

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

Read more about Nord Stream 2 and why it matters.

10:52 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

French foreign minister warns about more European sanctions on Russia

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian gives a joint press conference with his German counterpart following a meeting on February 23, 2022 at the Foreign Office in Berlin.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian gives a joint press conference with his German counterpart following a meeting on February 23, 2022 at the Foreign Office in Berlin. (Kay Nietfeld/AFP/Getty Images)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned of additional European sanctions on Russia, but noted that the European Union is still hopeful there can be further dialogue toward a “peaceful ending” to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. 

“The first packet of sanction are serious; they will hurt,” Le Drian said. “There will be other packets.”

The foreign minister’s remarks echo that of France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who warned Wednesday that European leaders have “infinitely more penalizing” sanctions at their disposal to impose on Russia in an interview with CNN affiliate BFMTV. 

The European Union on Tuesday said it would sanction all 351 lawmakers of the Russian lower house, the Duma, who voted in favor of recognizing the independence of the separatist-controlled Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.

Addressing reporters in Berlin on Wednesday, Le Drian warned that “anything is possible, even the worst,” but stressed that there is still time for negotiations. 

“There’s a space of discussion that will continue to be open for the peaceful ending the Ukrainian crisis,” the French foreign minister said. 

Speaking alongside Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said European leaders and partners “want to avert war” but will take a hardline approach to Russia if needed. 

“We do not want a war in Europe, and it is on Russia to take back these steps,” Baerbock said. 

“We kept making clear that we will take all hard measures if necessary,” she added.  

10:05 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

EU plans to sanction Russian defense minister and Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, diplomat says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Luke McGee

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu watches the Russian Navy hold drills in the Mediterranean Sea on February 15.
Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu watches the Russian Navy hold drills in the Mediterranean Sea on February 15. (Vadim Savitsky/TASS/Getty Images)

The European Union is planning on sanctioning the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA), according to a senior EU diplomat.  

The diplomat told CNN Wednesday that the sanctioning of the defense minister and agency should "be a done deal."  

All that remains is for the sanctions to be formalized "through written procedure," and then they should be published and enter into force later on Wednesday, the diplomat said, though nothing will be official until formally announced.  

The diplomat hailed it as "an impressive feat" to have coordinated these sanctions between the 27 member states in "such a short timeframe." 

The Wall Street Journal first reported the bloc's plan to sanction Shoigu and the agency.  

Some background: In 2019, then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his Russian investigation report outlined how the IRA engaged in a years-long campaign to sow discord in the US, and eventually to support the election of Donald Trump, by creating and maintaining fake social media personas and activist organizations designed to look like they were run by real Americans. The troll group also successfully used fake accounts on Twitter to provoke reactions from high-profile American users from across the political spectrum.

In 2020, former President Donald Trump confirmed the US conducted a covert cyberattack in 2018 against the IRA.

A CNN investigation in 2020 discovered that at least part of the IRA's campaign was outsourced to trolls in Ghana and Nigeria. They focused almost exclusively on racial issues in the US, promoting Black empowerment and often displaying anger toward white Americans. The goal, according to experts who follow Russian disinformation campaigns, was to inflame divisions among Americans and provoke social unrest.

11:39 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

On the ground: An artillery shell destroyed the home of a 9-year-old in Ukraine

From CNN's Sam Kiley

When you walk into 9-year-old Veronica's bedroom in Novoluhans'ke, Ukraine, you'll see all her stuffed toys — teddy bears, a tiger and others. A warm sight if it wasn't for the shattered window of her bedroom in a house that was destroyed by an artillery shell.

Shelling of Ukrainian territory from areas controlled by separatists has risen dramatically in the past day, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said last week.

"Luckily, she was in the kitchen, lying on the floor, when these shells landed. But it could have been so much worse — truly almost a miraculous survival," CNN reported Sam Kiley said as he surveyed the house.

Watch the full report here:

9:29 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022

Biden's latest Russia sanctions target the families of Putin's inner circle. Here's who is impacted. 

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

The new US sanctions triggered by Russian's latest actions in Ukraine included targets that in the past have gone untouched: the family members of those in Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

By designating the sons of two powerful players close to the Russian President, the Biden administration sent a clear signal that its target list for individual sanctions extends beyond public officials and financiers as part of a new effort to shut down pathways for top Putin associates to shield their wealth by giving it to family members.

Denis Bortnikov and Vladimir Kiriyenko, both designated for individual sanctions by the Treasury Department on Tuesday, hold their own prominent positions in Russian business. But both will now have any US-held assets frozen and be barred from dealing with any US persons solely because their fathers serve as Putin's domestic intelligence chief and as one of Putin's closest advisers, respectively.

"They share in the corrupt gains of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well," Biden said Tuesday.

Sanctioning the sons of two of Putin's closest officials doesn't carry the impact of other measures announced on Tuesday, most notably imposing sanctions on two of Russia's most prominent banks and reducing the country's ability to access Western finance.

But they are meant to unsettle a very personal element of the Russian economy, one driven by the reality that Putin's inner circle and the family members tied to them represent an extraordinary consolidation of wealth and power inside the country.

"This is unprecedented because we are extending the reach of US sanctions to prevent the elites close to Putin from using their kids to hide assets, evade costs, and squander the resources of the Russian people," a senior Biden administration official told CNN. "This is a new approach."

It is clear, officials say, that the opening salvo of that approach is unlikely to be the last.

The sanctions are aimed at "powerful Russians in Putin's inner circle believed to be participating in the Russian regime's kleptocracy and their family members," according to the Treasury Department.

Denis Bortnikov is the son of Aleksandr Bortnikov, the powerful head of the Federal Security Service, Russia's domestic intelligence service known as the FSB. The elder Bortnikov, already subject to sanctions in March of last year, was re-designated for sanctions in the new round.

Vladimir Kiriyenko is the son of Sergei Kiriyenko, the former prime minister and current first deputy chief of staff of the presidential office who is viewed by US officials as "Putin's domestic policy curator." The elder Kiriyenko, also sanctioned in 2021, was also re-designated for sanctions on Tuesday.

The re-designations were necessary to create the legal pathway to target their sons for designation, which freezes all property and interests in property in the US, or in possession or control of a US citizen.

The two sons currently hold prominent roles of their own — Bortnikov as deputy president of VTB Bank, one of Russia's largest financial institutions, and Kiriyenko as the recently installed CEO of VK Group, which serves as the parent company of the Russian social media company VK, which calls itself "the largest European social network."

A third sanctioned individual, Petr Fradkov, serves as the CEO of Promsvyazbank, the military bank also targeted for sanctions on Tuesday. But he, too, carries a key familial tie to the upper echelons of Putin's orbit.

Fradkov is the son of Mikhail Fradkov, an ex-prime minister of Russia and the former chief of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR. The elder Fradkov was targeted for sanctions by the US in 2018.

Read more about the sanctions here.