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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8:46 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Italy backs SWIFT sanctions against Russia as part of EU measures

From Hada Messia in Rome and Sharon Braithwaite and Lindsay Isaac in London

Italy has signaled that it would support taking measures to expel Russia from the SWIFT global payment system as part of further European Union sanctions against Moscow for invading Ukraine, Prime Minister Mario Draghi's press office said on Saturday.

During a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Draghi said that "Italy fully supports the European Union’s line on sanctions against Russia, including those regarding SWIFT, and shall continue to do so," the prime minister’s press office said.

Draghi expressed to Zelensky Italy’s solidarity and support for him and the Ukrainian population "in the face of the attack by the Russian Federation."

The Ukrainian president hailed the declaration, tweeting: “This is the beginning of a new page in the history of our states Ukraine and Italy. #MarioDraghi in a phone conversation supported Russia's disconnection from SWIFT, the provision of defense assistance. Ukraine must become part of the #EU.”

Draghi also said Italy will provide Ukraine with assistance to defend itself, according to his office, and the two leaders agreed to remain in close contact in the immediate future.

More background: The bloc has been divided over the issue of banning Russia from SWIFT as part of the two packages of sanctions it has agreed since the invasion of Ukraine began. However, the opposition has been dropping off with France also saying it would “support” the idea of SWIFT restrictions, according to the Élysée, following a phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Zelensky. On Friday, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that France is not among the countries that has reservations regarding SWIFT sanctions.

8:37 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Hungary will not block sanctions against Russia, including on SWIFT, foreign minister says

From CNN's Chris Liakos and Sharon Braithwaite

Hungary will not block any sanctions against Russia, including on the global SWIFT payment system, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said Saturday in a statement.

Szijjártó responded to recent claims that Hungary would oppose sanctions against the Kremlin over the invasion of Ukraine. 

"I am saddened and shocked to see that some representatives of international politics and the international press dare to fabricate fake news and lies," Szijjártó said in the statement, confirming that Hungary "has never blocked any sanctions proposal."

The European Union announced new sanctions against Russia on Friday.

The bloc has adopted the "strongest" package of sanctions ever against Russia, following the invasion of Ukraine, EU Commission deputy chief spokeswoman Dana Spinant tweeted Saturday.

8:38 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Debunking fake videos of the war in Ukraine

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

The way the conflict in Ukraine has unfolded across social media has made it hard for many people to figure out what's real and what's not. Cell phone videos from locals have circulated on Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, but some of the videos alleging to depict the situation on the ground in Ukraine have turned out to be fake.

Many showcase old footage from elsewhere instead, while some even used scenes from video games.

To combat misinformation around Ukraine, Facebook set up a "Special Operations Center" Thursday afternoon to respond to war-related activity and "remove content that violates our Community Standards faster," while Twitter shared tips for using its platform in conflict zones.

Texas A&M University professor Jennifer Mercieca, whose research focuses on propaganda and political rhetoric, said it's not a surprise that a conflict involving Russia includes what she calls "information warfare."

While information warfare is not new, according to Mercieca, the extent to which misinformation currently is being spread is a consequence of the sheer volume of information about the situation in Ukraine available across different forms of media.

View more from CNN's fact-check here.

8:30 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

100,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived since start of Russian invasion, says Polish Border Guard

From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen

A Polish border guard assists Ukrainian refugees as they arrive to Poland, on February 26.
A Polish border guard assists Ukrainian refugees as they arrive to Poland, on February 26. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Around 100,000 people have entered Poland from Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion of the country on Thursday, a Polish border guard said Saturday.

“Yesterday was a record day, Border Guard officers cleared over 47,000 people in the direction to Poland. We will help everyone, we will not leave anyone without help. Once again, all Polish services are working together,” a tweet attributed to the guard’s Commander-in-Chief read.

The United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, told CNN Saturday that more than 120,000 people had left Ukraine while 850,000 were internally displaced. She added up to 4 million Ukrainians could leave if the situation worsened.

The Head of the Prime Minister's Office, Michał Dworczyk, said a train had been converted to aid people fleeing the war, and tweeted a photo of himself at the station.

The train will run from the station in Przemysl, Poland to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“We are next to the train which will perform 2 functions. 5 wagons were converted for sanitary transport and possible injured. 4 wagons are filled with humanitarian aid, which will be transferred to the Lviv region today,” Dworczyk said.

8:35 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls for end to Russian involvement in SWIFT

From CNN's Allegra Goodwin in London

British prime minister Boris Johnson speaks from 10 Downing Street, in London, on February 24.
British prime minister Boris Johnson speaks from 10 Downing Street, in London, on February 24. (Jeff J Mitchell/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

British prime minister Boris Johnson has called for an end to Russia’s involvement in SWIFT, the secure messaging service that facilitates payments among 11,000 financial institutions in 200 countries, in an act of support towards Ukraine. 

“We are calling for an end to Russian involvement in SWIFT,” said a UK government update on Ukraine which Johnson tweeted Saturday. 

The European Union is divided over Ukraine’s appeal for Russia to be banned from the service.

In a video message to Ukrainians earlier on Saturday, the country's President Volodymyr Zelensky said the majority of EU members now supported imposing the new sanction, but called on Germany and Hungary to do the same.

Ukraine appealed for Russia to be removed from SWIFT after President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion on Thursday. The call from Kyiv was backed by Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and the United Kingdom but other European countries resisted.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has come under fire for not supporting the move, which the government said would require careful preparation.

Removing Russia from SWIFT would make it much harder for financial institutions to send money in or out of the country, delivering a sudden shock to Russian companies and their foreign customers — especially buyers of oil and gas exports denominated in US dollars.

However, senior Russian lawmakers have responded by saying that shipments of oil, gas and metals to Europe would stop if that happened.

Read more about SWIFT here:

9:01 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Blinken authorizes $350 million more in US military assistance to Ukraine   

From CNN's Jamie Crawford

US soldiers are stationed at a military base in Arlamow, Poland, on February 24.
US soldiers are stationed at a military base in Arlamow, Poland, on February 24. (Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday he has authorized $350 million in new US military assistance to Ukraine.

“Today, as Ukraine fights with courage and pride against Russia’s brutal and unprovoked assault, I have authorized, pursuant to a delegation by the President, an unprecedented third Presidential Drawdown of up to $350 million for immediate support to Ukraine’s defense,” Blinken said in a written statement.

“This package will include further lethal defensive assistance to help Ukraine address the armored, airborne, and other threats it is now facing. It is another clear signal that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereign, courageous, and proud nation,” he added.

As CNN has reported, President Joe Biden instructed Blinken to release up to $350 million in immediate support to Ukraine's defense, according to a memo released by the White House Friday. 

This is the third drawdown of money. Previous drawdowns have been for $60 million and $250 million, putting the total over the last year at more than a billion dollars, according to an administration official. 

8:55 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Russia defense ministry denies its missile struck Kyiv residential building, state news agencies say

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Nathan Hodge in Moscow

A residential building was struck by a missile or rocket fire in Kyiv, on February 26.
A residential building was struck by a missile or rocket fire in Kyiv, on February 26. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied reports that one of its missiles struck a residential building in Kyiv, claiming the damage was caused by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft projectile, Russian state news agencies reported on Saturday, citing a source at the ministry.

“The information disseminated on social networks about a Russian missile attack on a residential building on Lobanovsky Avenue in Kyiv is not true,” the defense ministry source said, according to TASS and RIA Novosti. “The nature of the damage to the house indicates that an anti-aircraft missile hit it. This is clearly visible on the video.”

"Obviously, in the course of repelling a night rocket attack on military infrastructure … of Ukraine, a failure occurred in the missile guidance system of the Ukrainian Buk-M1 medium-range air defense system, and the missile hit the corner of a residential building,” the source added, according to TASS and RIA Novosti. 

CNN has reached out independently to the Russian Ministry of Defense for a response but has yet to hear back. 

Images and video from the scene showed a large impact some 10 floors up in the building, with the cause of the strike unclear and the extent of casualties unknown. Several apartment units were blown out entirely, their outer walls and windows missing, leaving a gaping hole visible in the building's side, as residents were evacuated.

Here's the location of the building:

More context: Social media videos, photos and satellite images analyzed and geolocated by CNN confirm that on several occasions densely populated areas have been hit by Russian forces. CNN is reaching out to the Russian government for comment.

Amnesty International, in a press release on Friday, accused Russian forces of "indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and strikes on protected objects such as hospitals," citing three examples, including an attack on Thursday near a hospital building in Vuhledar, in the eastern Donetsk region. That attack killed four civilians and wounded ten more, Amnesty reported.

Read about more examples CNN found here.

8:08 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Russia bans flights from Bulgarian, Polish and Czech carriers

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio in Moscow

The Russian Civil Aviation authority has closed off its airspace to flights from carriers or aircraft registered in Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic.

“This decision was made in accordance with the norms of international law as a response to the ban on all civil flights of aircraft operated by Russian air carriers and/or registered in Russia to/from the territory of these states,” the Russian Civil Aviation authority said in a statement on Saturday. 

On Friday, Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport, Rosaviatsia, imposed a ban on UK registered flights or flights of aircraft owned, leased or operated by a person associated with the UK from transiting through the country’s airspace. The ban was in response to the UK prohibiting civilian Russian aircraft from its airspace.

Travel affected: Meanwhile, Ukraine's airspace is currently closed in the wake of the Russian invasion. Its neighbor Moldova has also closed its airspace, as has part of Belarus. Furthermore, the US government's Federal Aviation Administration has told US pilots to avoid "the entire country of Ukraine, the entire country of Belarus and a western portion of Russia."

Read more:

8:04 a.m. ET, February 26, 2022

Japanese-owned cargo ship hit by a missile off Ukrainian coast

From CNN’s Lizzy Yee and Emi Jozuka

A Japanese-owned cargo ship was hit by a missile off the coast of Ukraine in the Black Sea on Friday, lightly injuring one crew member, an official from a Japanese marine transportation firm said Saturday. 

The official added that there were 20 crew members on board.

According to a statement released on the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense's Facebook page on Saturday, preliminary reports indicate the missile was fired by Russian forces and hit the stern of "Namura Queen" cargo ship on Friday. 

“The tugboat 'P&O STAR' has come to the rescue. The situation is under control,” the post said. It added that the ship was sailing under the Panamanian flag, and heading to Pivdennyy port. 

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported Saturday that the "Namura Queen" crew are all safe. According to a website that tracks ships' positions, the vessel is currently en route to Istanbul, Turkey.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry also reported that a different ship was shelled by a Russian warship on Friday. The vessel, "Millenial Spirit," was sailing under the Moldovan flag, and carried 600 tons of fuel oil and diesel onboard when it was struck. Two crew members were seriously injured as a result, according to the ministry.