February 27, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Steve George, Rob Picheta, Jeevan Ravindran, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury, Amir Vera and Emma Tucker, CNN

Updated 8:17 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022
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1:06 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Australia to boost support and help supply lethal military equipment to Ukraine

From CNN's Wayne Chang

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks with the media outside the St. Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Sydney on Sunday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks with the media outside the St. Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Sydney on Sunday. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Australia will work with NATO members to supply weapons to Ukraine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Sunday. 

The move to step up support comes after the Prime Minister said on Friday Australia would provide "non-lethal" military equipment and medical supplies,

"We are already providing significant support in terms of non-lethal aid, but I've just spoken with the defense minister, and we'll be seeking to provide whatever support we can for lethal aid through our NATO partners, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom," Morrison said on the sidelines of a church service for the Australian Ukrainian community. 
"[Our NATO partners] are already providing support in these areas and we will be assisting them with what they are doing."

Morrison also said Australia has expedited visa processing of Ukrainians seeking to enter Australia and will provide more humanitarian aid in the near future, describing it as a "top priority."

"Our focus is what's occurring in Ukraine right now and providing the immediate relief to those who would be coming across borders as hundreds of thousands of people are becoming displaced and the world community will work together on all of those issues. But Australia will be very prepared to take more and more and more as we have with Afghanistan," Morrison said.

12:55 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Captured Russian soldiers allowed to call their parents, Ukrainian general says

Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetsky speaks during a news conference at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington on Saturday. With him is Oksana Markarova, Ukraine's ambassador to the United States.
Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetsky speaks during a news conference at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington on Saturday. With him is Oksana Markarova, Ukraine's ambassador to the United States. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Ukrainian Major General Borys Kremenetsky told reporters in Washington Saturday that Ukraine had captured around 200 Russian soldiers who were "badly equipped."

"We captured around 200 Russian soldiers, some of them 19 years old, not trained at all, badly equipped. We treat them according to Geneva Convention, according to international humanitarian law," Kremenetsky, who is a defense official at the Embassy of Ukraine in the US said. 

CNN has not been able to independently verify the general's claims. 

He also said the soldiers were allowed to "call their parents" and were given food and water.

Kremenetsky said he is working closely with the Pentagon, but Ukraine still needs more support with military aid. 

"There is list of crucial requirements, and we still need more capabilities. I can assure you that what we received already were used in a proper way," he said.

12:52 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

More than 150,000 have fled Ukraine, UN High Commissioner for Refugees says

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai

Refugees from Ukraine walk into Przemysl, Poland, after crossing the border on Saturday.
Refugees from Ukraine walk into Przemysl, Poland, after crossing the border on Saturday. (Michael Kappeler/picture alliance/Getty Images)

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Saturday that more than 150,000 people have been forced to flee Russian violence in Ukraine.

"More than 150,000 Ukrainian refugees have now crossed into neighboring countries, half of them to Poland, and many to Hungary, Moldova, Romania and beyond," he said.
"Displacement in Ukraine is also growing but the military situation makes it difficult to estimate numbers and provide aid," Grandi said in a tweet Saturday.

12:48 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Trump defends praise of Putin even as he calls Ukrainian President "brave"

From CNN's Gabby Orr, Sara Murray and Steve Contorno

Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday.
Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday. (John Raoux/AP)

Former US President Donald Trump defended his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday while also calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “a brave man” amid Russia’s deadly invasion of his country.

“He’s a brave man, he’s hanging in,” Trump said of Zelensky in remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, even as he declined to back away from complimenting Putin as “smart.”

“The problem is not that Putin is smart, which, of course, he’s smart,” Trump said. “The problem is that our leaders are dumb… and so far, allowed him to get away with this travesty and assault on humanity.”
“Putin is playing [President Joe] Biden like a drum and it’s not a pretty thing to watch,” he continued.

The former President has repeatedly praised Putin in the days since Russian troops crossed into Ukraine and began launching rocket strikes against the country’s capital of Kyiv. His comments on Zelensky come days after he lavished praise on Putin, calling the Kremlin leader “genius” and “savvy” in a radio interview. 

Read the full story.

12:47 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

SpaceX Starlink satellite internet service activated in Ukraine, says Elon Musk

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Ukraine’s vice prime minister asked SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to provide internet service to the country amid Russian attacks — and Musk delivered, according to a Twitter exchange between the two on Saturday.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Digital Transformation, tweeted to Musk: "while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand."

 “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route,” Musk responded. 

Starlink is a satellite-based internet constellation intended to blanket the planet in high-speed broadband and could potentially bring connectivity to billions of people who still lack reliable internet access, CNN has reported

 

12:51 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

'Saturday Night Live’ opens with a powerful tribute to Ukraine

From CNN Business' Frank Pallotta

Saturday Night Live” returned from a nearly monthlong hiatus without a cold open. Instead of a funny satirical sketch, the NBC variety show chose to present a powerful tribute to the country of Ukraine.

The tribute follows Russia launching a brutal and unprovoked military assault on the country earlier this week. The invasion has caused bloodshed, destruction, forced more than 120,000 people to flee the country and has been condemned by many nations around the world.

Cast members Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong stood center stage at Studio 8H and introduced viewers to the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York.

The choir then sang “Prayer for Ukraine” as the live audience sat silently.

Read more here.

12:44 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Ukrainians defy Russia’s onslaught as battle enters into fourth day

An explosion lights up the sky to the south of Kyiv, Ukraine, early on Sunday.
An explosion lights up the sky to the south of Kyiv, Ukraine, early on Sunday. (CNN)

Massive explosions lit up the night sky near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv early Sunday as Ukrainian forces continue to repel Russian attempts to gain control of the historic city, despite overwhelming odds.

Two large explosions appeared to have been around Vasylkiv – a small city with a large military airfield and multiple fuel tanks – some 30 kilometers, or about 18 miles, south of Kyiv.

The explosions come as Ukrainian forces engage in fierce fighting with Russian troops in multiple cities across the country, as ordinary Ukrainians and reservists join efforts to defend their homes and families against Russian acts of violence.

Accusations of war crimes: Concerns are now growing that Russia may look to deploy indiscriminate battlefield weaponry in civilian areas in a desperate attempt to crush Ukrainian resistance.

On Saturday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal accused Russia of war crimes, saying Russian forces shelled kindergartens, residential blocks and “buses with children.”

Though Russia has claimed it is not targeting civilian infrastructure, an increasing body of evidence on the ground suggests otherwise.

Civilian deaths: Ukraine has reported multiple civilian deaths, including a six-year-old boy who died in heavy gunfire in a western district of Kyiv Saturday evening, according to a local hospital.

A woman was killed after a nine-story residential building in the eastern city of Kharkiv was hit by “enemy artillery” on Saturday night, according to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service.

And on Saturday, a large residential apartment block in the west of Kyiv was struck by what a Ukrainian government minister described as a Russian missile, as residents across the city were forced to seek shelter after a terrifying night punctuated by gunfire and explosions.

Michael Kofman, research program director in the Russia Studies Program at CNA, a Washington-based think tank, tweeted:

"I think today we've seen a shift in Russian targeting towards critical civilian infrastructure, greater use of MLRS, and artillery in suburban areas. Unfortunately, my concern that this was going to get a lot more ugly and affect civilians is starting to materialize," he said.

Read more here:

12:32 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

It's just past 7:30 a.m. in Kyiv. If you're just joining us on Sunday, here's what you need to know

Ukraine’s highly-motivated, outgunned forces held their capital against the Russian onslaught into a fourth day Sunday, as battles continued across the country, while a defiant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged citizens to defend their country against the invading forces.

If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know:

  • Civilian deaths: Heavy gunfire in a western district of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Saturday evening killed a six-year-old boy and injured several other people, according to a local hospital. Separately, Ukraine's state emergency service said a nine-story residential building in the eastern city of Kharkiv was hit by "enemy artillery" on Saturday night, killing one woman.
  • On the ground: Two large explosions lit up the night sky to the southwest of Kyiv early Sunday morning. They appear to have been around Vasylkiv, some 30 kilometers, or about 18 miles, south of Kyiv — a city with a large military airfield and multiple fuel tanks. Shortly after, CNN verified video of a fire raging at an oil storage area at the Vasylkiv Air Base, southwest of the air base’s main runway.
  • Russian banks expelled from SWIFT: The White House, European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada, said they back the expulsion of certain Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world, and pledged efforts to “collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for Putin.”
  • Russian aircraft banned: Germany has ordered the ban of Russian aircraft from entering the country's airspace, according to German Minister of Transport Volker Wissing. It joins Estonia, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia in banning Russian airlines from their airspace.
  • Targeting civilian infrastructure: European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said he "most strongly" condemns Russian attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. Despite Russian denials, reports about apartment buildings and kindergartens being shelled, civilians being killed, and rockets being found in residential streets have been trickling in since the beginning of the offensive.
  • Protests around the world: Cities across the world have seen rallies in support of Ukraine this weekend, including in St Petersburg, Washington DC, Barcelona, New York, Brussels, Millan, Tbilisi and London. Meanwhile, nearly 2,700 people were detained in anti-war protests in Russia since Thursday, independent protest monitoring site OVD-Info said.
  • Military aid to Ukraine: Germany will deliver 1,000 antitank weapons and 500 stinger missiles to Ukraine in a major policy shift after resisting Kyiv's previous calls for defensive weaponry. And the US authorized $350 million in new US military assistance to Ukraine, including “anti-armor and anti-aircraft systems, small arms and various caliber munitions," a Biden administration official said.
12:22 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

One civilian killed in Kharkiv as apartment building hit by artillery fire

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

Ukraine's State Emergency Service said a nine-story residential building in the eastern city of Kharkiv was hit by "enemy artillery" on Saturday night, killing one woman.

The emergency service said the building was extensively damaged and about 80 people were rescued. Most had been sheltering in the basement.