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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1:26 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Hundreds of people detained in anti-war protests around Russia, according to independent monitors

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

(CNN)
(CNN)

As of Thursday evening Moscow time, at least 850 people have already been detained in at least 44 cities across Russia, independent monitoring group OVD-Info reported

Russia bars demonstrations without a permit, but Russians may stage individual, single-person protests.

Authorities on Thursday warned citizens that participating in anti-war protests could lead to prosecution and criminal charges.

Watch Nic Robertson's report from the scene of some arrests:

1:16 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Russian troops seize Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukrainian official says

From Olga Voitovich in Kyiv 

Russian troops have seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management spokesperson, Yevgeniya Kuznetsovа, tells CNN.

“When I came to the office today in the morning [in Kyiv], it turned out, that the [Chernobyl nuclear power plant] management had left. So there was no one to give instructions or defend," she said.

Earlier today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had tweeted that Russian forces were attempting to seize control of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The Ukrainian National Guard was working to protect the nuclear plant from attack, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said.

CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London and Gul Tuysuz contributed reporting to this post.

1:17 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

UK PM announces further sanctions in an effort to "squeeze Russia from the global economy, piece by piece"

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

The United Kingdom is set to sanction 100 people and entities as part of further sanctions against Russia, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday afternoon.

In a speech to the UK parliament, the prime minister said the UK is announcing the "largest and most severe package of sanctions that Russia has ever seen."  

An asset freeze will be imposed on Russian state bank VTB, Johnson said, following the sanctioning of five Russian banks on Tuesday.

"These powers will enable us totally to exclude Russian banks from the UK financial system," Johnson remarked.

Russian state and private companies will also be prevented from "raising funds in the UK, banning dealing with their securities and making loans to them."

A hundred people and entities will have their assets frozen, Johnson said, adding that this includes "all the major manufacturers that support Putin's war machine."

"Sanctions will also be applied to Belarus for its role in the assault on Ukraine," Johnson added.

As far as international finance is concerned, Johnson said "nothing is off the table" when it comes to shutting off Russia’s access to SWIFT, the high-security payment network.

The UK is also hoping to bring in legislation "early next week" to ban the export of all dual use items to Russia, Johnson said, including a "range of high end and critical technological equipment and components in sectors including electronics, telecommunications, and aerospace."

Johnson stressed that these sanctions will "constrain Russia's military, industrial and technological capabilities for years to come."

The UK will also ban Russia's national carrier, Aeroflot, and bring forward measures on unexplained wealth orders from the Common Crime Bill, Johnson said.

A new dedicated kleptocracy cell in the UK's National Crime Agency will be established "to target sanctions, evasion and corrupt Russian assets hidden in the UK," Johnson continued.

"We will continue on a remorseless mission to squeeze Russia from the global economy, piece by piece, day by day and week by week," Johnson told lawmakers. 

The UK will carry out a "steadfast mission" to ensure that Putin's "squalid adventure" fails, Johnson stressed. 

Johnson said it is now clear that the Russian president was "always determined to attack his neighbor no matter what we did." 

"Now we see him for what he is, a blood-stained aggressor," Johnson remarked. 

1:03 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Trains carrying vulnerable children evacuated from eastern Ukraine will arrive in Lviv on Friday

From Sofiya Harbuziuk

Trains carrying vulnerable children evacuated from eastern Ukraine will arrive in the Lviv region on Friday, a spokesperson for the Lviv State Regional Administration told CNN.

A train from the Luhansk oblast region will carry 41 children age 4 and under, many of them orphans.

Another train is on its way from Donetsk oblast carrying 106 children, and a third is carrying 18 children with disabilities and special needs from Lysychansk in the Luhansk oblast.

12:59 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Biden: US and G7 leaders agreed to move forward on "devastating" sanctions against Russia

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

In a Twitter message, US President Joe Biden says he agreed with fellow G7 leaders "to move forward on devastating packages of sanctions and other economic measures to hold Russia to account."

"We stand with the brave people of Ukraine," he added.

Biden met with the leaders earlier today and is set to speak at 1:30 p.m. ET from the White House on the situation unfolding in Ukraine.

He attached a photo from the Situation Room of the meeting.

See the President's tweet:

12:54 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Russian riot police tell protesters to disperse in Moscow

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Nic Robertson

Russian riot police are urging protesters to leave Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow, saying over loudspeakers that the “[protest] action is unauthorized.”

CNN’s Nic Robertson and team on the ground have witnessed people being detained by police. Some are carrying signs with messages, including multiple signs saying “no to war.” 

Russian authorities on Thursday warned citizens that participating in anti-war protests could lead to prosecution and criminal charges.

12:53 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Ukrainian ambassador to US: All Ukrainians will fight to protect their homes

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova speaks to the press from the Ukranian Embassy in Washington, DC, on February 24.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova speaks to the press from the Ukranian Embassy in Washington, DC, on February 24. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said Thursday that “all Ukrainians” will fight to protect their country in the face of a Russian invasion.

“The combat spirit of Ukrainian military is high,” Markarova said at a press conference in Washington, DC.

“We are fighting. We will be fighting. We, not only our brave and motivated military, but all Ukrainians, we are protecting our homes and we will not stop,” she said. 

Markarova expressed thanks to US President Joe Biden “for the immediate statement which came minutes after (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s decision to go on this offensive,” as well as other allies “who issued statements in support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“We value all the support. We hear all the support. It's very important for us,” she said. “But it's also time to act. And we call on the international community to act immediately.”

Asked by CNN whether she believed Russian President Vladimir Putin would have been deterred if the US had imposed stronger sanctions earlier, Markarova said, “we are where we are ... so let's focus on the sanctions that the United States and other countries will impose right now.”

“This is what matters,” she said. “The actual deeds that we all together will do now is what matters.”

12:41 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Putin tells business leaders there will be "restrictions" on Russian economy

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the country's business leaders that he expected "restrictions" on Russia's economy, but said Russia had taken a "necessary measure" by launching a large-scale military offensive against Ukraine. 

In remarks aired Thursday on state television, Putin said:

"What I wanted to say first – the most important thing, so you all understand – what is going on was a necessary measure. They didn’t leave us any chance to act otherwise. They created such risks in the sphere of security that it was impossible to react in a different way. All our efforts came out to zero. […] They created such risks that it’s difficult to comprehend how our country could have continued to exist."

US and Western leaders have pledged harsh sanctions, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urging the West to ban Russia from the SWIFT international payments system. Putin noted that Russia remained part of the global economic system, but warned of further "restrictions" to the Russian economy and called for business to work "in solidarity" with the government.

“It seems to me that our partners should understand this and not set themselves the task of pushing us out of this system," Putin said. "Nevertheless, for political reasons, these restrictions will happen."

US President Joe Biden is set to announce further sanctions on Russia in the next hour.

12:37 p.m. ET, February 24, 2022

US agriculture secretary: It's "a little early" to predict how attack on Ukraine will impact wheat prices

From CNN's Liz Stark

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday it is “a little early” to predict what impact Russia’s attack on Ukraine will have on the agricultural industry and food prices for American consumers. 

“I think it's a little early to make projections and to hypothesize about circumstances,” he said.

“If I were a commissioner or an [agriculture] secretary in a European country, I would probably have a much different feeling about this,” he added. “I think we in the US are fortunate. We have tremendous capacity; we have tremendous production capacity.”

He later noted that while it’s still “too early” to predict the impact on Europe, “I don't foresee a circumstance where American consumers on the food side are necessarily going to … see the kind of impact and effect” that European consumers might experience.

His comments comes as concerns have grown about what a Russian invasion of Ukraine could mean for agricultural products worldwide.

Russia is the world's top exporter of wheat, and Ukraine is also a significant exporter of both wheat and corn.

Vilsack said Thursday “it will take some time” for the potential impact on various agricultural products to be felt and urged companies not to take “unfair advantage” of the situation.

“I sincerely hope that no company out there — whether it's fertilizer or any other supply that may be impacted by this — will take unfair advantage of this circumstance and situation,” Vilsack said.  

Vilsack further pledged to “do everything we possibly can to provide the level of assistance and help that will enable folks who may be negatively impacted by this to be able to get through as best as possible.”

Follow live coverage of how global markets are reacting to the attack here.