February 26, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Adrienne Vogt, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Jeevan Ravindran, Peter Wilkinson, Jessie Yeung, Brad Lendon, Steve George, Meg Wagner, Amir Vera and Helen Regan, CNN

Updated 10:27 a.m. ET, March 6, 2022
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7:38 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Officials are trying to stabilize Kyiv residential block struck by missile or rocket overnight

Medics gather near a residential apartment block which was struck by a missile or rocket fire in Kyiv, on February 26.
Medics gather near a residential apartment block which was struck by a missile or rocket fire in Kyiv, on February 26. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

A tall residential building in Kyiv was struck by a missile or rocket fire on Saturday morning. Images from the scene showed a large impact some 10 floors up.

CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward has visited the scene, which is quite near to one of the capital’s airports. Smoke could still be seen billowing from the building with the streets and air below littered with debris.

“There are ambulance workers on the scene. And what they're doing now is trying to take some scaffolding up there to try to prevent the 22nd and 23rd floors from collapsing,” Ward reports, adding that miraculously no one was actually killed in the incident.

“We're hearing from Ukrainian authorities that six people were wounded,” she adds. “They're being treated in various hospitals.”

It was unclear who bears responsibility for the damage at this point, Ward reported.

“Ukrainian authorities saying that this was the work of a Russian missile. And the Russians are saying ... that they believe this was actually a Ukrainian missile defense system that somehow went awry and ended up hitting this apartment building.”

She continued: “Now, whoever was responsible, and however this happened, the reality is this is the sort of thing that does happen when you have a war playing out in a major metropolis like Kyiv.

“This is a city of nearly 2.9 million people and we're in a pretty central area here. This isn't on the far outskirts of town. You can just imagine how terrifying it was for the people who were sleeping, or just waking up, having their breakfast with their families on a Saturday morning, already terrified about the situation, only to find their building hit in this attack.”

7:24 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Bulk of Russian forces just 18 miles from Kyiv, according to UK intelligence

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

The bulk of Russian forces are now only 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) from the center of Kyiv, the British Ministry of Defence said Saturday.

It also warned Russia that casualties are “likely to be heavy and greater than anticipated or acknowledged by the Kremlin.”

According to the latest intelligence update from the ministry, "Russia has yet to gain control of the airspace over Ukraine greatly reducing the effectiveness of the Russian Air Force."

It said that "Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to put up staunch resistance across the country." 

Defiant president: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told citizens the capital Kyiv was still under their control and "fighting continues," in his latest video message on Saturday.

Earlier, explosions in Ukraine were heard as the country's Interior Ministry warned of "active fighting" in the capital.

7:13 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Poland refuses to play Russia in next month's 2022 World Cup qualifier over Ukraine

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Robert Lewandowski (L) and his Poland team mates pictured during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between Poland and Andorra on March 28, 2021 in Warsaw, Poland.
Robert Lewandowski (L) and his Poland team mates pictured during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between Poland and Andorra on March 28, 2021 in Warsaw, Poland. (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)

Poland has refused to play in next month’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the President of the Polish Football Association Cezary Kulesza said on Saturday.  

“No more words, time to act! Due to the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine the Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Russia,” he wrote on Twitter

Polish forward Robert Lewandowski backed up the decision, tweeting: “It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues. Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

Separately, in a statement, the Polish Football team said: “We, the players of the Polish national team, together with the Polish Football Association, decided that as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, we do not intend to play in the play-off match against Russia  It is not an easy decision, but there are more important things in life than football. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kedziora, who is still in Kiev with his family.”

The statement signed off with hashtags: #SolidarnizUkraina (in solidarity with Ukraine) and #NoWar Please.

7:01 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Kyiv mayor orders curfew starting Saturday evening

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, is imposing a curfew from Saturday evening that will run from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. "for more effective defense of the capital and the security of its inhabitants."

The curfew will continue until the morning of February 28.

"All civilians on the street during the curfew will be considered as members of the enemy's sabotage and reconnaissance groups.

"Please treat the situation with understanding and do not go outside."

6:43 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Israeli embassy staff in Lviv to move to Polish side of border

From CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid holds a press conference at the Foreign Ministry on February 24 in Jerusalem, Israel.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid holds a press conference at the Foreign Ministry on February 24 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Israeli Government Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has instructed staff at the Israeli embassy in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv to move to the Polish side of the border.

The embassy staff will cross the border into Ukraine every day to continue their diplomatic work and help Israeli citizens leave Ukraine, according to Lapid on Saturday.

The decision was made after assessing various aspects including the situation on the ground, the security of the emissaries of the State of Israel and the continuation of service to Israeli citizens.

Earlier this week Israeli diplomats had relocated from Kyiv to Lviv.

6:35 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Ukraine has withstood and repelled attacks, Zelensky says

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a video message to the people of Ukraine on February 26.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a video message to the people of Ukraine on February 26. (President of Ukraine)

In his latest video message on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians: "We have withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks. Fighting continues in different cities and regions of our country."

Zelensky said the capital Kyiv and key towns around it were still under the control of the army.  

We have ruined their plans. they have no advantage over us."

He said Russia had hit residential areas using rockets, adding: "The destruction by missiles and artillery of residential buildings is the ultimate argument for the world to be by our side in stopping the occupiers’ invasion."

Zelensky said Ukraine now had "almost full support of the members of the EU to exclude Russia from SWIFT" -- the international payments system that has been at the heart of a debate about sanctions against Russia. "I hope that Germany and Hungary will have enough courage to support this decision," he said.

He also said Ukraine has earned its membership in the European Union. "Now the decisive moment has come to end the many years of discussions" about Ukraine joining the bloc.

He again appealed to Ukrainians to resist the Russian invasion. 

Each Ukrainian should keep one thing in mind: if you can stop and destroy the occupiers -- do it. Everyone who can come back to Ukraine -- come back to defend Ukraine."

He also appealed to volunteers from abroad. "All the friends who want to join us -- please come, we will give you weapons."

Switching to Russian, Zelensky then spoke again directly to Russians.

He thanked Dmitry Muratov, the head of independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and others in Russia for their anti-war activism, and said: "Russians are being sent to die in the thousands and to kill."

6:25 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

France seizes Russian-flagged cargo ship over suspected sanctions breach

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman in Paris

French authorities seized a Russian-flagged commercial ship Saturday in the English Channel, a spokesperson for the French Channel Prefecture told CNN.

The Russian-flagged "Baltic Leader" -- a commercial vessel carrying cars -- was stopped by French officials in the Channel and re-routed to the port of Boulogne, the spokesperson said. 

Customs officials have begun inspections of the vessel, which is suspected of belonging to a company targeted by European sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the spokesperson said. An investigation by French customs has been opened. 

6:15 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Russia's media watchdog threatens outlets over Ukraine coverage

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor has warned 10 local news outlets that it will restrict access to their publications unless they stop spreading what it calls false information, including references to the military operation in Ukraine as an "attack, invasion or declaration of war.”

In letters sent letters to these outlets, the watchdog said it complained about allegedly “false information” they published on the shelling of Ukrainian cities and the death of civilians caused by the Russian armed forces. 

The outlets notified are: Echo of Moscow, InoSMI, Mediazona, New Times, TV Rain, Svobodnaya Pressa, Krym.Realii, Novaya Gazeta, Zhurnalist and Lenizdat.

Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace prize in 2021. Some of these outlets have been designated by Russian authorities as foreign agents. 

“Unless the above inaccurate information is removed, access to these sources will be restricted,” the watchdog said in a statement on Saturday, announcing an investigation into the media outlets. 

“Roskomnadzor strongly recommends that the editorial offices of the media, prior to the publication (broadcast) of materials in accordance with Article 49 of the Mass Media Law, establish their authenticity,” the watchdog said. “We emphasize that accurate and verified information is available from official Russian information sources.”

6:12 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Several security checkpoints are being set up around Lviv

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Journalists Sofiya Harbuziuk in Lviv and Petro Zadorozhnyy in Lviv

Several security checkpoints were set up around Lviv in western Ukraine on Saturday, CNN teams on the ground have witnessed. 

The city's mayor confirmed the checkpoints in a statement on Saturday.

"Checkpoints are being set up in Lviv and the region. They will be placed on all entrances and exits to the Lviv Territorial community for checking all people entering the territory," Andriy Sadovyi said, according to the statement.

"Checkpoints are placed in cooperation with police and territorial defense forces to ensure the safety of Lviv," the statement added. 

Some of those checkpoints are still being established on the main roads leading to the city.

Separately, sirens went off multiple times in the city as local authorities in Lviv continue urging residents to take cover and go to nearby bomb shelters.

Lviv is the city to which some diplomats relocated from Kyiv, the capital, earlier this month.