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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2:04 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Japan will sanction Putin and prime minister "indicates" nation will join Russian SWIFT ban, NHK reports 

From CNN's Jennifer Deaton

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks with the press in Tokyo on February 27.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks with the press in Tokyo on February 27. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

Japan will freeze the financial assets of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin "and other key government officials" following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio said, according to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.

Prime Minister Fumio said Russia’s actions are a violation of international law that Japan strongly condemns, NHK reported Sunday.

He also said a united response was needed to safeguard international order, NHK reported.

Prime Minister Fumio also "indicated that Japan will join the United States and European countries in blocking selected Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment network," NHK said.

The prime minister also said Japan will provide an additional $100 million in emergency humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine, in addition to a prior pledge amounting to ‘about 100 million dollars,’ NHK reported.

SWIFT is the high-security network connecting thousands of financial institutions worldwide. Read more about it here.

11:13 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

European Union needs to prepare for millions of Ukrainian refugees, EU Home Affairs commissioner says

From CNN’s Maddie Araujo in London

The European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said on Sunday that the EU needs to prepare for millions of Ukrainian refugee arrivals.

“It’s very difficult to guess how many, but I think we should be prepared for millions,” Johansson said. 

She added that so far “around 300,000 Ukrainians have come to the EU member states.” 

Interior ministers from across the EU are meeting in Brussels to discuss the fallout from the crisis in Ukraine.

Johansson said she will “launch a solidarity platform” to coordinate the different kind of support that member states will need, and “to Ukrainians that are fleeing Ukraine.”

2:01 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

NATO secretary general: Putin's nuclear readiness move is "dangerous rhetoric"

From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin in London

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (CNN)

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order for his country’s deterrence forces — including nuclear arms — to be placed on high alert, is part of a “dangerous rhetoric,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday.

“If you combine this rhetoric with what they're doing on the ground in Ukraine, waging war against an independent sovereign nation, conducting a fully-fledged invasion of Ukraine, this adds to the seriousness of the situation,” he continued. 

The Secretary General added, “That's the reason why we both provide support to Ukraine, but also why we over the last weeks and months have significantly increased the presence of NATO in the eastern part Alliance, US but also European allies are now stepping up with more troops, more ships, more planes, and why we also have to realize that we are now faced with a new normal for our security."

He went on to say this was “just the beginning of the adaptation that we need to do as response to a much more aggressive Russia.”

11:30 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Official: US seeing Russian momentum slow in north Ukraine but forces having "bit more success" in south

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman & Oren Liebermann

The US continues to see Russian forces face “stiff resistance” and see their momentum slow in the northern part of Ukraine, while Russians are having a “little bit more success” in the south, a senior US defense official told reporters on Sunday, citing fuel shortages and logistical issues.

The US is seeing the most resistance in the Russian advance on the city of Kharkiv, the official said. The Russians are “facing some logistics challenges as well on their advance down north to Kyiv,” the official added.

The official noted that the Russians would learn from their logistical issues and find ways to overcome them. 

Russian forces remain 30 kilometers, or approximately 19 miles, outside Kyiv’s city center, according to the official. They were in that same position 24 hours earlier, indicating that the Russian military has not made appreciable gains in its invasion of Ukraine from the north in that time.

There is some fighting inside Kyiv, which the US believes is the Ukrainians fighting with Russian reconnaissance elements in the city, the official said.  

The US still has no indication that the Russian military has taken control of any Ukrainian city, the official said, but that continues to be Russia’s goal.

In the south, Russian forces that were part of an amphibious assault on Friday on the Sea of Azov, which put navy infantrymen ashore there, have now “moved up towards Mariupol’,” the offfical said.

The airspace over Ukraine is still contested, the official added.

“That means that the Ukrainians are still using both aircraft and their own air and missile defense systems which we believe are still intact and still viable, though they have been, as I said yesterday, there’s been some degradation by the Russians,” the official said.

The US is also seeing preparations for a potential siege of Chernihiv, a city approximately 80 miles north-northeast of Kyiv on the Belarussian border. 

The concern comes from observations of increased rocket attacks inside the city and the Russian attempt to surround the city.

“It remains to be seen if that’s exactly what they’re going to end up doing, but the indications are enough in terms of how they’re positioning their forces around the city,” the official said. 

6:17 p.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Turkish foreign minister: Turkey recognizes the Russian invasion to Ukraine as "war"

From CNN's Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday that Turkey has decided that Russia’s invasion to Ukraine is a “war.”

“Is this a conflict or a war? We decided on that. Article 19 of the Montreux Convention is very clear. This is a war.” he said in a live interview to CNN Turk. 

Turkey’s recognition is important for the application of 1936 Montreux Convention that regulates naval passage through the Turkish straits.

The Montreux Convention gives Turkey certain control over the passage of war ships from Dardanelles and Bosporus Straits that connect the Aegean, the Marmara, and the Black Sea. 

In peace times, war ships can pass the straits by prior diplomatic notification with certain limitations about the weight of the ships and arms they carry depending on the ship if it belongs to is a Black Sea country or not. 

During wartime, when Turkey is not at war, warships can use the straits except for those belonging to belligerent states. 

According to the convention, if Turkey is a part of the war or considers itself threatened with imminent danger of war, it can shut down the straits to the passage of warships that have a coast onto the Black Sea or not.

However, as Çavuşoğlu mentions the article 19 of the Montreux Convention provides an exception. The war ships of belligerent countries can return to their base of origin in Black Sea. 

“Now this conflict has turned into a war, in this case, this is how we apply Montreux for the parties, Russia or Ukraine. Article 19 provides an exception. If the ship of the war country will return to its port, an exception is made. We will implement all the provisions of Montreux with transparency.”

This means even if Turkey bans, Russian and Ukrainian ships can return to their base of origin. Çavuşoğlu said when applying the exception countries should not abuse the clause, and added, “I explain Montreux and Turkey’s position."

More background: The Montreux Convention gives Turkey control over the passage of vessels through those two key straits. 

In peacetime and war time, Turkey does not have the right to restrict civilian ships even if Turkey is part of the war.  

Warships can navigate through the straits during peacetime, but under conditions that restrict aggregate tonnage depending on if they are or are not a Black Sea country and limits the duration of stay in the Black Sea for non-Black Sea nations.

Black Sea nations include Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine.

There are also limitations on the caliber of weapons they can carry, and Turkey needs to be notified of the request. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly mischaracterized the Turkish foreign minister's comments about applying the Montreux Convention's exception.

10:55 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Putin has used two-thirds of Russian total combat power amassed for invasion, US defense official says 

From CNN's From Ellie Kaufman

Russian President Vladimir Putin has used two-thirds of the Russian total combat power “he applied to this invasion,” a senior US defense official told reporters Sunday.

This “still means he has a third outside Ukraine, which is not insignificant,” the official said.

The US has assessed that “as of this morning” Russian forces “have launched more than 320 missiles.”

The majority of those missiles are “short-range ballistic missiles,” the official added.

10:44 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Spain will close airspace to Russian airlines

From CNN's From Al Goodman in Madrid

Spain will close its airspace to Russian airlines, according to the Spanish Ministry for Transport. 

The Ministry for Transport announced the move in a tweet Sunday saying the country would "proceed to close its air space to Russian airlines" following the European Union's directives of cooperation. 

Spain joins a slew of other countries that have closed their airspace to Russian airlines this weekend in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including Germany, Italy, France and Canada.

10:50 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Czech Republic joins Poland and Sweden in refusing to play Russia in 2022 World Cup qualifiers

From CNN's Wayne Sterling

The Czech Republic football national team has joined Poland and Sweden in refusing to play Russia in a potential match at the upcoming men’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in protest of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"The Czech FA executive committee, staff members and players of the national team agreed it's not possible to play against the Russian national team in the current situation, not even on the neutral venue," the Czech team wrote on Twitter Sunday. "We all want the war to end as soon as possible."

Poland and Sweden, individually, made their announcements on Saturday.

See the tweet:

More context: Russia is scheduled to host Poland in a playoff semifinal on March 24. The game is due to be held at the VTB Arena in Moscow.

The winner of the Poland-Russia match would host either Sweden or Czech Republic on March 29 in the final of their World Cup qualification route.

Read more about this here.

10:39 a.m. ET, February 27, 2022

Ukraine's ambassador to US: "We're ready for peace talks, we're not ready to surrender"

From CNN's Aaron Pellish

Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova speaks at a press conference on February 25, in Washington, DC.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova speaks at a press conference on February 25, in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova welcomed the news of talks with Russia as a possible way to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine but added her home country is “not ready to surrender.” 

Markarova said in an ABC News interview on Sunday Ukraine’s focus has always been on using diplomacy to resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in response to news Ukraine has agreed to meet with Russian negotiators at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. 

“Our president, from the beginning, even before the war started, always focused — was focused on the diplomatic solution,” Markarova said. “And even after the war started, he actually called for peace talks all the time, but he always said, we’re ready for peace talks, we’re not ready to surrender,” she said.

Markarova also called on the West to offer more military aid to the Ukrainian military and pushed the US and its allies to issue further sanctions on Russia. Markarova also called on US businesses to consider divesting from Russian businesses and financial institutions. 

“We are grateful for everything that is there already and that is about to come, and we need more because we are defending our country against a very strong enemy. We also need sanctions, more sanctions, and we need Russia to clearly see that and feel that it's not okay in the 21st century, to attack another country, a sovereign country without any reason,” Markarova said. 

“And I also would like to use this opportunity also to call on American business,” Markarova added. “I think it's time to think about saving reputations and not cooperating with a regime that will end up in The Hague for everything they've done and they're doing now to Ukraine,” referring to the International Court of Justice where alleged war crimes are heard," she said.

Background: On Saturday, the White House, alongside the European Commission and other allies, announced their intent to expel some Russian banks from the international banking network SWIFT and target the Russian Central Bank with severe sanctions. 

Markarvoa also gave an update on the safety of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying he is “as safe as our country.” 

 “He is as safe as our country, and that’s the choice he made to stay in Kyiv, to stay in Ukraine and lead the nation in this very difficult moment,” Markarova said.