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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6:51 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

NATO to deploy more land and air forces

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin in London 

NATO will increase land, sea and air forces on its eastern flank amid Russia’s “horrifying attack on Ukraine,” the security alliance said in a statement Thursday. 

“Russia’s actions pose a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security, and they will have geostrategic consequences. NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the security and defence of all Allies,” the statement said.

“We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces to the eastern part of the Alliance, as well as additional maritime assets. We have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies,” it added. 

The statement condemned Russia’s actions, which it labeled “unjustified and unprovoked,” and reaffirmed that it stood with the people of Ukraine. 

“Today, we have held consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty. We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all Allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defence across the Alliance. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory,” the statement continued. 

“Our commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is iron-clad. We stand united to defend each other,” it stated. 

6:46 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

There is now no US diplomatic presence in Ukraine

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

There is no longer a US diplomatic presence in Ukraine at this time, according to a US official familiar with the matter.

US diplomats had been spending their nights in Poland and their workdays in Lviv, western Ukraine, over the last few days. But after the Russian assault on Ukraine began Thursday the US diplomats did not go back into the country --- and there are no plans for them to do so anytime soon, the official said.

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

Overnight the US embassy in Ukraine announced they had suspended consular services.

“On February 24, 2022, the Department of State suspended consular operations in Lviv, Ukraine, following the suspension of consular services at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on February 12, 2022," according to the embassy's website.

8:21 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

After short respite, CNN teams across Ukraine hearing renewed strikes, though less severe than overnight blasts

From CNN’s Tim Lister and Gul Tuysuz in Kyiv

After a few hours of calm in the morning hours local time, CNN teams in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and Mariupol have reported once again hearing sounds of strikes on Thursday, although these so far appear to be less severe than the explosions reported overnight.

An eyewitness who saw and heard the latest strike in the town of Brovary on the outskirts of Kyiv described the situation as “terrifying.”

The CNN team in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, has heard around five blasts that are some distance away.

In the southern city of Odessa, our team heard a strike that was close enough to the city center that it set off car alarms. Another blast was heard along the coast of Odessa after five to six distant explosions at dawn.

In Mariupol, in the southeast of the country, the CNN team heard a barrage of artillery that lasted nearly 20 seconds.

Smoke rises from a Ukrainian air defense base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, on February 24.
Smoke rises from a Ukrainian air defense base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, on February 24. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)
6:42 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Kremlin spokesman describes Ukraine invasion as "special operation," but declines questions on its objectives

From CNN's Anna Chernova in Moscow

Firefighters work on a fire on a building after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv, Ukraine, on February 24.
Firefighters work on a fire on a building after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv, Ukraine, on February 24. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred to Russia’s military attack on Ukraine as a “special operation” Thursday, but dodged most questions on its nature or objectives in a call with foreign journalists. 

"I cannot give you information on the military, technological and other components of this operation,” Peskov said. “The only primary source here should be our military and defense departments.”

The spokesman added that occupation was not the objective, echoing President Vladimir Putin's claims in a televised address earlier on Thursday.

“No one is talking about occupation, in this scenario that word is not applicable,” Peskov said. “This is a special operation. I do not think it's necessary for me to explain anything here, because the president himself gave exhaustive explanations.”

In his speech, Putin said he had decided "to conduct a special military operation ... to protect people who have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years," repeating a baseless claim about Ukraine's Russian-separatist-backed Donbas region.

The invasion began soon afterwards 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.

6:27 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

In photos: Scenes from Ukraine this morning

After months of military buildup and brinkmanship, Russian forces have begun an invasion of Ukraine.

Thursday saw reports of troops crossing the border to the north and south, explosions in multiple cities including the capital Kyiv and warnings from Russian President Vladimir Putin of bloodshed unless Ukrainian forces lay down their arms.

A wounded woman is seen after an airstrike damages an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on February 24.
A wounded woman is seen after an airstrike damages an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on February 24. (Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The first blasts were heard at around 5 a.m. Thursday, prompting immediate condemnation from the United States and its allies, which have threatened to enact "full scale" sanctions in response to Russian military aggression.

The escalation in the years-long conflict has triggered the greatest security crisis on the European continent since the Cold War, raising the specter of a dangerous showdown between Western powers and Moscow.

People on a bus leaving from the main bus station in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24.
People on a bus leaving from the main bus station in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24. (Timothy Fadek/Redux for CNN)

As air raid sirens rang out across Kyiv early Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky moved to enact martial law and government ministers accused Moscow of launching a "full-scale invasion." As dawn broke, heavy traffic could be seen clogging roads heading west out of the city, while further east, near the Russian border, the mayor of Kharkiv urged citizens not to leave their homes.

Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24.
Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

CNN teams in Russia and Ukraine also heard blasts from several parts of Ukraine, including near the capital Kyiv and the port city of Odessa, and images released by the office of President Zelensky showed large explosions to the east of the capital Kyiv with huge columns of smoke rising into the air.

See more photos from Ukraine here:

6:19 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

UK summons Russian ambassador and promises to impose "severe sanctions"

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London 

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss departs Downing Street after Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the UK's response to the crisis in Ukraine on February 24.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss departs Downing Street after Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the UK's response to the crisis in Ukraine on February 24. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Britain has summoned its Russian ambassador as the UK's foreign secretary warned that "severe sanctions" will be imposed on Moscow for its "illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine."

"I have summoned the Russian ambassador to meet me and explain Russia’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine," Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a tweet Thursday. 

Truss warned that the UK will be "imposing severe sanctions and rallying countries in support of Ukraine."

Coming up: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to address the nation soon. 

6:14 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

Here's how Russia's invasion of Ukraine unfolded

From CNN's Tim Lister and Tara John

Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv on February 24
Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv on February 24 (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian forces invaded Ukraine from three sides, while explosions rang through a number of cities, including the capital Kyiv, in a broad attack that began before dawn on Thursday.

Here's a timeline of how and when it unfolded.

Putin announces attack: Russian President Vladimir Putin made a speech early Thursday morning, saying he had decided "to conduct a special military operation ... to protect people who have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years," repeating a baseless claim about Ukraine's Russian-separatist-backed Donbas region.

He denied, however, that Russia was planning to occupy Ukrainian territories. "We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force."

But in a deeply menacing passage Putin added that anyone trying to interfere with or threaten Russia would lead to "consequences that you have never experienced in your history."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded several hours later with a minute-long speech of his own, saying he had spoken to US President Joe Biden and that the United States was rallying international support for Ukraine.

"The West is with us," he said, and announced martial law across the country.

A pre-dawn assault: The invasion began hours before dawn 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.

It quickly spread across central and eastern Ukraine as Russian forces attacked the country from three sides. In the hours before daylight, people in the cities of Odessa, Dnipro, Mariupol and Kramatorsk reported huge blasts.

Immediate details of casualties were unclear. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry claimed its troops sustained no losses.

But there was clearly substantial damage in and around several cities. In Kharkiv, video emerged of an apartment block that had been damaged by a missile or long-range artillery. Another video showed a rocket embedded in a road. The State Emergency Service reported that six people were trapped in rubble in Nizhyn.

Ukraine's interior ministry said ballistic missiles had been used as part of the offensive, while jets were heard over the central city of Zaporizhzhye.

The Russians used a wide array of weaponry in their assault, including attack aircraft and helicopters, tanks, long range artillery and missiles.

Dawn breaks: After dawn, air sirens sounded across Kyiv and also in the western city of Lviv. A short time later a single, unidentifiable plane roared above the capital.

As the day began in Kyiv, streams of vehicles could be seen crossing the North Bridge, heading west, away from the focus of the Russian assault. Other people in the capital sought shelter in the subway.

Across the country long lines formed at gas stations and cash machines. A few people gathered in the streets of Kharkiv to pray.

Under overcast skies on Friday morning, Kiev appeared to be in a state of shock. The streets were quiet and schools closed. Here and across the country, Ukrainians are just beginning to come to terms with a cataclysmic night and the prospect of a deeply uncertain future.

CNN teams across Ukraine and Russia contributed to this report.

6:01 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

EU set to launch "massive sanctions package" against Russia, German FM says

From CNN’s Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock briefs the media in Berlin, on February 24.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock briefs the media in Berlin, on February 24. (Markus Schreiber/AFP/Getty Images)

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday said the European Union is set to unleash “the full packet of sanctions” against Russia, adding that the world must respond resolutely to the invasion of Ukraine, or run the risk of paying an even higher price.

We woke up in a different world today,” Baerbock told reporters at a news conference in Berlin, adding “we will launch the full package of massive sanctions against Russia.”

“If we do not take a firm stance now, we will pay an even higher price,” Baerbock continued.

Baerbock noted that Russia had “rejected our offers of talks.” She also appealed directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying: “You will never destroy the dream of democracy” and said Ukraine had “done nothing wrong” to merit Russia's invasion. 

The foreign minister called again on German citizens to leave Ukraine immediately, adding that if they cannot leave the country safely, they should stay in a safe place. Baerbock said that German embassies in neighboring countries will be present on the borders to provide help to EU citizens. 

Germany will decide shortly if the country's embassy can continue its operation from Lviv, Baerbock concluded. 

6:07 a.m. ET, February 24, 2022

How Putin’s attack on Ukraine unfolded inside the White House

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden was working the phones with top national security officials in the moments before and after his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced he was launching a military intervention in Ukraine, the grim fulfillment of Biden's predictions stretching back weeks.

National security aides had already been huddling in the West Wing on Wednesday evening, preparing for what US officials had warned was a looming assault on Ukraine, when Putin's speech began airing on Russian television around 9:45 p.m. ET.

Appearing before dawn in Russia, the speech came as a surprise.

British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward (L) and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield (R) attend the United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine in New York City on February 23.
British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward (L) and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield (R) attend the United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine in New York City on February 23. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

At the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield had spoken by phone to Biden in the moments prior to her remarks at an emergency session of the Security Council. He asked her “to convey in the strongest possible terms his -- and our -- steadfast support for Ukraine," she said around 9:45 p.m. ET -- almost exactly the same time as Putin's address.

Her speech didn't reflect the major development that Putin had officially announced the invasion. Photos from the room show her texting with the Ukrainian delegate, saying she "wished I had the news before I ended my remarks."

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield chats with Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya on a phone during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield chats with Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya on a phone during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

At the White House, Biden convened a secure phone call with top military brass Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Just past 10 p.m. ET, activity in the West Wing briefly came to a halt as televisions tuned to CNN showed teams reporting hearing explosions in Kyiv and Kharkiv, hurriedly donning their protective gear and helmets.

In their offices, Sullivan and other aides worked on drafting Biden's initial statement declaring Russia's actions "unprovoked and unjustified" and vowing "the world will hold Russia accountable." Biden's statement came through at 10:25 p.m. ET.

Roughly an hour later, a request came in from Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to speak with Biden, who was eager to get him on the phone. Earlier in the day, officials took note of Zelensky's public concerns, including declaring a state of emergency and mobilizing military reservists, believing it was first time he had conveyed publicly the concerns they have discussed privately for weeks.

On their call, which lasted approximately 10 minutes, Zelensky asked Biden to "call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin's flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine."

As Biden was speaking to Zelensky, his aides were also on the phone to Europe as they prepared to announce what one official described as the "full scale" of sanctions, which could include export controls, restrictions on large banks and blocks on members of Putin's inner circle.

Biden starts Thursday with additional briefings before attending a virtual session of the G7, where the sanctions will be discussed among the world's leading industrialized nations.

And at noon, Biden will speak to the American people from the White House.

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