February 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Rob Picheta, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Ed Upright, Maureen Chowdhury and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 8:06 a.m. ET, February 25, 2022
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9:21 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Russian authorities warn citizens against participating in anti-war protests

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

Russian authorities have told citizens not to participate in anti-war protests, the country’s Investigative Committee warned in a statement on Thursday. 

“In connection with the spread of calls for participation in riots and rallies related to the tense foreign policy situation,” the committee statement warned against the “negative legal consequences of these actions, which include prosecution and up to criminal liability.”

“It should be remembered that holding a criminal record holds negative consequences and leaves a mark on the person’s future,” the Investigative Committee added.

10:53 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

On the ground: Russian forces take control of an air base near Kyiv, Ukraine

From CNN's Matthew Chance and Aditi Sangal

Russian airborne troops have taken control of the Antonov Airport, which is about 25 miles away from the center of Kyiv, Ukraine, CNN's Matthew Chance reported Thursday.

"They've allowed us to come in and be with them as they defend the perimeter of this airbase, where the helicopter-borne troops were landed in the early hours of the morning to make and perform an air bridge to allow for more troops to come in," he reported.

The troops have an orange and black band on the arm of their uniforms to identify them as Russian forces, Chance added.

The commander of the unit told CNN there was a fire fight — presumably with the Ukrainian military, which says it is staging a counteroffensive to try and take back this airport.

Chance added, "We hearing some aircraft in the air ... There is a plume of black smoke, gray smoke, brown smoke, coming up from inside the compound of the air base. I think there are jets in the sky above us."

11:47 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Ukrainian Interior Ministry says Russian helicopter shot down in Kyiv region, and CNN has geolocated footage

From CNN’s Katie Polglase, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Anastasia Graham-Yooll

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry confirmed Thursday that one Russian helicopter and three other unknown helicopters were downed in the Kyiv region.

CNN has verified two social media videos showing multiple explosions and helicopters flying close to the ground in the city of Hostomel, just 25 kilometers (or about 15 miles) from Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.  

In the videos, several bangs and sparks can be seen in the residential area while helicopters fly close to the camera, with black smoke surrounding the sky.

CNN geolocated both pieces of footage to Hostomel. The videos appear to show the fighting the Ukrainian government has described in which it said one Russian helicopter was shot down, along with three other unknown helicopters.

It is unclear if the other three helicopters are Russian or Ukrainian. CNN is working to clarify.

9:12 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

UN refugee agency steps up operations in Ukraine and neighboring countries

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Passengers arrive on a train from Odessa via Lviv in Ukraine to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, on February 24.
Passengers arrive on a train from Odessa via Lviv in Ukraine to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, on February 24. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

The United Nations refugee agency is stepping up operations and capacity in Ukraine and neighboring countries as people start to flee Ukraine, High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement Thursday.

“We are gravely concerned about the fast-deteriorating situation and ongoing military action in Ukraine,” Grandi said. 

“UNHCR is also working with governments in neighboring countries, calling on them to keep borders open to those seeking safety and protection. We stand ready to support efforts by all to respond to any situation of forced displacement,” he added.  

9:42 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

On the ground: Families in Kharkiv, Ukraine, crowd into subway station that has become impromptu bomb shelter

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Families, including young children and pets, crowded into a subway station that is serving as a bomb shelter in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

"It's just absolutely surreal. Yesterday, this would have been full of commuters making their way back and forth to work. Today, it has become an impromptu bomb shelter," CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward reported.

Ward said she and her team were outside and then heard a "series of thuds."

"People start[ed] to pour in here ... These people are frightened. They're confused. They are desperately uncertain about what they're supposed to do, how long they can take shelter here, where they go from here," she said.

One woman told Ward she grabbed necessary items with her.

"Just documents and some money, and mostly we can't take cash because I'm not sure that I can pay by card now. And I'm not sure I can get anywhere from Kharkiv for now," she said.

She has a car, but she said she is not sure "be safe in Ukraine in any city."

Earlier, CNN's Fred Pleitgen witnessed rockets that appeared to be launched from the Belgorod region in Russia over the border near Kharkiv, as well as military vehicles headed toward the road leading to the city.

Watch CNN's reporting on the ground at the subway station:

8:51 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Biden convened a national security council meeting this morning on Ukraine 

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US President Joe Biden convened a meeting of the National Security Council Thursday morning in the Situation Room to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine, a White House official said.

As CNN reported, a number of top national security officials arrived at the White House earlier this morning. CNN observed national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, CIA director Bill Burns, and Vice President Kamala Harris arriving at the West Wing in the 7 a.m. ET hour.

CNN reported that Biden, vowing the world will "hold Russia accountable" for the attack underway in Ukraine, will spell out a set of sanctions on Thursday once meant to deter such an assault.

Set to address the nation at 12 p.m. ET, Biden is expected to unveil new measures that could cut off Russia from advanced technology, announce new restrictions on large financial institutions and slap sanctions on additional members of the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post. 

9:13 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Nigerian students say they feel abandoned in Ukraine

From CNN's Stephanie Busari in Lagos, Nigeria

While other governments are making plans to evacuate their citizens from Ukraine, Nigerian students tell CNN they have been essentially told: “You’re on your own.” 

Anjola-Oluwa Ero-Phillips said he and around 70 other Nigerian students are stranded with no way to legally leave Lviv in the west of the country, close to the border with Poland.

Abike Dabiri of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission told CNN that the country's foreign ministry will announce evacuation plans, but gave no timeline.

Dabiri also sent updated travel advice from the Nigerian foreign ministry asking Nigerian students in Ukraine to “remain calm but be very vigilant and be responsible for their personal security and safety.”

Lviv is around 300 miles from Ukraine capital Kyiv where explosions were heard in the early hours of Thursday after Russian forces entered the country.

“There have not been explosions here but earlier in the day we heard the siren tests. Flights are cancelled and it’s hard to get any taxis or Uber,” medical student Ero-Phillips said of the situation in Lviv. 

“Everybody is at the ATM trying to withdraw cash but banks are not opening. Money is running out at the ATM and you can’t do app transactions anymore,” he added. 

People line up to withdraw money at cash machines in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on February 24.
People line up to withdraw money at cash machines in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on February 24. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

"Based on what I have heard from the Indian citizens, their government is trying to get free transit for them to the Polish border,” Ero-Phillips said.

In an advisory Thursday, the Indian Embassy in Kyiv said arrangements were being put in place to evacuate Indian nationals and students.

“No one has any idea what to do. We have been reaching out to the Nigerian embassy since last month,” said Ero-Phillips, who is president of the Lviv arm of the Association of Nigerian students in Ukraine.

8:36 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Lviv residents sought shelter underground early Thursday morning, deputy mayor says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

An employee inspects a bomb shelter located in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on February 21.
An employee inspects a bomb shelter located in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on February 21. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

As parts of Ukraine come under Russian offense, tensions have traveled to the other side of the country to Lviv, located in western Ukraine, deputy Mayor Andriy Moskalenko told CNN.

"In Lviv, we had this morning sirens. And so it was a sign for people to move to underground places. It was a potential threat," he said, adding that there were no explosions.

CNN reported residents lined out of banks and ATMs to withdraw money and at gas stations out of concern. The city has also instructed education to move online so children and university students can stay at home, the deputy mayor told CNN.

Otherwise, services and institutions are working as usual, he said.

"Right now, the city works as usual. We have water supply, heat supply, we have transport and banks and other institutions at work. We, together with state security service, the administration, with police, manage our work. So we have come to headquarters to provide services for our residents," Moskalenko told CNN.

8:36 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

EU says it will make it as "difficult as possible" for the Kremlin to pursue aggressive actions in Ukraine 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press conference on Russia's military operation in Ukraine after talks with President of the European Council and NATO Secretary General, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 24.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press conference on Russia's military operation in Ukraine after talks with President of the European Council and NATO Secretary General, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 24. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union will "make it as difficult as possible" for the Kremlin to pursue its "aggressive actions" in Ukraine, the chief of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen warned. 

Speaking in a joint press conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and European Council chief Charles Michel in Brussels, von der Leyen said the EU will "hold Russia accountable for this outrageous violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The EU chief said she had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which he asked her for "whatever the different stakeholders can do for help."

The EU is set to unveil a further package of "massive" and "targeted" sanctions later Thursday, she said. 

The package will include "financial sanctions that harshly limit Russia's access to the capital markets" and "suppress Russia's economic growth," she explained. 

The second pillar of this package will limit Russia's access to "crucial technology," von der Leyen continued, in a bid to "cut off Russia's industry from the technologies desperately needed today to build a future."

"Our measures will weaken Russia's technological position in key areas, actually, from which the elite makes most of their money. And this ranges from high tech components to cutting edge software. This will also seriously degrade the Russian economy in all areas in the future," she said.

"Let me be very clear. It is President Putin who will have to explain this to his citizens. I know that the Russian people do not want this war," von der Leyen said. 

The Kremlin is aware that European unity "is our best strength," she said, adding that this is "why they have tried their best to divide us." 

"They have achieved the exact opposite. We are more united and more determined than ever," she concluded.