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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8:09 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

UK prime minister vows "massive" sanctions on Russia for attack on Ukraine

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

A TV grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a speech from Downing Street, London, in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
A TV grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a speech from Downing Street, London, in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. (PA Images/Reuters)

Britain and its allies will slap a “massive package of economic sanctions” on Moscow for invading Ukraine, “designed in time to hobble the Russian economy,” the UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged in a televised address Thursday.   

Calling Vladimir Putin a “dictator,” Johnson condemned the Russian president for unleashing war on European continent.

“He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse. Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population A vast invasion is under way by land by sea and by air,” Johnson said. 

Britain is joined in outrage by “friends and allies around the world,” he said, adding that the UK will work with them to “ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored.” 

He called the invasion an “act of wanton and reckless aggression,” and said it “not just on Ukraine” but on “democracy and freedom in east Europe and around the world.”

Johnson said he has spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer his continued support and said that new sanctions would be agreed on Thursday. 

7:59 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Kremlin spokesperson echoes Putin's baseless claims on invasion objectives

From CNN's Anna Chernova in Moscow

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine are among the objectives of Russia's military action in the country, which he described as a "special operation."

“Ideally, Ukraine should be liberated, cleansed of Nazis, of pro-Nazi people and ideology,” Peskov said, though he refused to say if that meant regime change in Kyiv. 

This Russian claim of a need to "denazify" Ukraine is one Putin has touted repeatedly over the years and is entirely baseless.

Peskov also said the operation would end only when its objectives had been reached. 

The operation has its goals, they should be reached. The president has said that all the decisions have been made and all the goals will be reached,” Peskov said. “It all depends on the decision of supreme commander-in-chief [President Putin].”

Putin announced his decision to "conduct a special military operation" in a surprise address overnight. During that speech, he said it was "to protect people who have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years," restating a groundless claim about Ukraine's Russian-separatist-backed Donbas region.

The invasion began shortly after with a series of missile attacks against locations near Kyiv, as well as the use of long-range artillery against the northeastern city of Kharkiv, near the Russian border.

7:42 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

CNN sees more military rockets that appear to be fired from Russian territory into Ukraine

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen and Aditi Sangal

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is on the ground at the Ukraine-Russia border in the Belgorod region and reports more artillery rockets that appear to be fired from Russian territory into Ukraine.

"That's another salvo of what we believe is multiple artillery rocket launchers that have been going off here," Pleitgen said.

He is reporting from the last checkpoint before the frontline, on the Russian side, in the south of a town called Belgorod.

Watch the artillery rocket fired here:

7:40 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

West condemns "Putin's war" as a "dark day for Europe"

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives to deliver a statement following a meeting of the security cabinet of the German government on February 24, in Berlin, Germany.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives to deliver a statement following a meeting of the security cabinet of the German government on February 24, in Berlin, Germany. (Clemens Bilan/Getty Images)

International condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been swift and sharp, with several leaders also promising a new, harsher wave of sanctions on Moscow in the coming hours.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz criticized Russia's military operation “in the strongest possible terms,” calling it a “reckless act by President Putin,” a “terrible day for Ukraine and a dark day for Europe.”

"There is no justification for any of this -- this is Putin's war," Scholz told reporters at a news conference in Berlin.

The European Union said: “We demand President Putin to cease Russian military operations immediately and unconditionally withdraw all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine.”

It added that Russia “bears full responsibility for this act of aggression and all the destruction and loss of life it will cause.”

And French President Emmanuel Macron, who had emerged as a key broker in Europe's attempts to avert an invasion, wrote: “France stands in solidarity with Ukraine. It stands with Ukrainians and is working with its partners and allies to end the war.”

Elsewhere, Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the country would provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine if needed, adding: "Israel has long experience in wars, and war is not the way to resolve conflicts.”

And in Taiwan, which has been closely watching events in Europe given the claims of China's Communist Party that the island is its territory, foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou was quick to condemn Putin's move.

"Ukrainian cities like Kyiv has been attacked by gunfire, leading to fears of a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine," she said. "We call on all sides to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and oppose the use of violence or coercion to change the status quo."

7:35 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Russian helicopters shot down near Kyiv, says Ukrainian Interior Ministry

From CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said Thursday that three Russian helicopters were shot down in the Kyiv region. 

“One Russian helicopter K-52 and three helicopters near Gostomel were shot down in the Kyiv region, near Mezhyhirya,” the ministry said in a statement published on its website. 

Earlier Thursday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said six Russian planes had been shot down as forces attacked Ukraine. Russian military denied the claims, state news agency TASS reported.

7:50 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Turkey's Erdogan rejects Russia's "unacceptable" military action on Ukraine

From Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech as he receives the delegation of the International Union of Democrats in Ankara, Turkey, on February 24.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech as he receives the delegation of the International Union of Democrats in Ankara, Turkey, on February 24. (Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected Russia’s military action on Ukraine, calling it “unacceptable” in a televised speech on Thursday. 

“This step, which we see as contrary to international law, is a blow to the regional stability and peace,” Erdogan said. 

Erdogan said he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier, and he reiterated support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“We sincerely regret that Russia and Ukraine, that we see both as friendly countries and that we have close political and social relations, have come face to face in this way,” he added. 

“We will do our part to ensure the safety of everyone living in Ukraine, especially our own citizens and Tatar brothers in the region,” he added. 

Erdogan spoke to Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Wednesday, where he expressed his rejection to the Russian president’s steps against Ukraine’s sovereignty.

7:23 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Germany promises help to neighbors with refugees fleeing Ukraine

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Federal Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser attends a security cabinet meeting on February 24 in Berlin, Germany.
German Federal Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser attends a security cabinet meeting on February 24 in Berlin, Germany. (Henning Schacht/Getty Images)

Germany has pledged support to its neighbors, including Poland, in the event of an influx of people after Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

"We are following very closely whether there will be an influx of refugees to our neighboring countries," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement.

Germany "will provide massive help to the affected states -- especially our neighbor Poland -- should there be a large-scale influx,” and remains in close contact with Poland and the EU Commission, she said.

EU coordination and support mechanisms, particularly for humanitarian aid, had already been launched so that ''very concrete support for Ukraine's neighboring states can be provided very quickly,” the statement adds.

Germany's interior minister also said that the country's security authorities ramped up protective measures to counter any cyberattacks.

CNN teams have witnessed a crush of traffic heading west out of the capital Kyiv in the hours after Russia's attack on Ukraine began.

"You can see it's almost a constant stream of traffic -- the residents of this country moving out, towards the west, the opposite direction of Russia. It is an absolutely chaotic scene on the road," CNN's Matthew Chance reported on Thursday.

7:48 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

"Our worst fears have now come true," says British PM Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson records an address at Downing Street after he chaired an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the UK response to the crisis in Ukraine on February 24, in London, England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson records an address at Downing Street after he chaired an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the UK response to the crisis in Ukraine on February 24, in London, England. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying in a televised address that Vladimir Putin has “attacked a friendly country without any provocation, and without any credible excuse."

"Our worst fears have now come true, and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate," Johnson said.

Addressing the Russian people, he added: “I cannot believe this has been done in your name, or that you really want the pariah status it will bring to the Putin regime.”

He also called for Europe to end its dependence on Russian oil and gas.

But Johnson did not set out details of the UK's response, saying only that he was working with allies on a "massive package of economic sanctions” designed to “hobble the Russian economy."

On Tuesday, after Putin first ordered troops into two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine, Johnson announced sanctions on five Russian banks and three individuals -- measures that were criticized in some corners for not going far enough.

7:06 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

China refuses to criticize Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and begins importing Russian wheat

From CNN's Beijing bureau 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying attends a news conference in Beijing, China, on February 24.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying attends a news conference in Beijing, China, on February 24. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

China has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine Thursday, instead repeating calls for parties to "exercise restraint" and accusing the United States of "fueling fire" in the tensions.

In a Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing that went on for more than 90 minutes, spokesperson and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying dodged more than 11 questions regarding Russia's actions in Ukraine. They included repeated inquiries on whether Beijing would consider Russia's acts an invasion and whether they violated Ukraine's territorial integrity. 

Hua added that China would begin importing Russian wheat, a move that could ease the impact of Western sanctions on Russia. 

"The Ukraine issue has a very complicated historical background. It has evolved to the present situation due to the joint action of various factors ... security should be a matter of joint cooperation and sustainable security, and the legitimate security concerns of all parties should be respected and addressed," Hua said sticking closely to comments made the previous day. 

China is "closely following the latest situation" and calls on parties to "exercise restraint to avoid the situation getting out of control," Hua said repeatedly. 

After questions from multiple media on whether China considered Russia's moves an invasion, Hua asked reporters, "Why are you obsessed with this question?

"You can ask the US side. They keep fueling fires ... You can ask them if they have any plans to put out the fire."

On Thursday, China's customs administration also said they would begin allowing wheat imports as of February 24 from Russia. The two countries had announced an agreement earlier this month for China to import Russian wheat during Putin's visit to Beijing to meet with President Xi and attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics. 

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.