February 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Rob Picheta, Ed Upright, Maureen Chowdhury, Jason Kurtz, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 1, 2022
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5:32 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Kremlin declines comment on progress of invasion after facing days of strong resistance

From CNN's Anna Chernova and Nathan Hodge in Moscow, and Allegra Goodwin in London

The Kremlin declined to comment Monday on the progress of Russia's so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, referring questions on the matter to the military.

“I don’t think this is the time to sum up the results of the [military] operation, we need to wait for completion of the operation,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with journalists.

The Russian military has acknowledged casualties but has not given exact figures.

Moscow's invasion has encountered "stiffer than expected" resistance from the Ukrainian military as well as unexpected difficulties supplying its forces, two senior US officials with direct knowledge told CNN on Sunday.

Official civilian death toll reaches triple figures: The latest toll for civilian deaths in Ukraine stands at 102, with 304 people injured, but the true figure is feared to be “considerably higher,” the UN’s Michelle Bachelet said Monday. 

The death toll includes seven children, Bachelet said, adding: “Most of these civilians were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and air strikes.” 

According to Bachelet, 422,000 people have fled Ukraine, while other civilians still in the country are “forced to huddle in different forms of bomb shelters, such as underground stations, to escape explosions.” 

5:19 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Ukraine asks to "urgently" join the European Union

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a video message from Kyiv as he asks the European Union to "urgently admit Ukraine" to the bloc on February 28.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a video message from Kyiv as he asks the European Union to "urgently admit Ukraine" to the bloc on February 28. (President of Ukraine)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the European Union on Monday to "urgently admit Ukraine" to the bloc.

"We appeal to the European Union to urgently admit Ukraine using a new procedure," Zelensky said in his latest video message.

"We are grateful to partners for standing with us. But our goal is to be with all Europeans and, to be equal to them. I am sure we deserve it. I am sure it is possible."

Zelensky said he spoke on Sunday with the Presidents of Portugal, Lithuania, France and Poland as well as the Prime Ministers of Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom. "Support of our anti-war coalition is unconditional and unprecedented," Zelensky said. 

9:14 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

The Russian ruble has plunged in value as sanctions impact banking systems

From CNN Business' Mark Thompson

Russia's currency crashed to a record low against the US dollar Monday as the country's financial system reeled from crushing sanctions imposed by Western countries in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The ruble lost more than 30% of its value to trade at 109 to the dollar at 2.30 a.m. ET after earlier plummeting as much as 40%. The start of trading on the Russian stock market was delayed.

The latest barrage of sanctions came Saturday, when the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada said they would expel some Russian banks from SWIFT, a global financial messaging service, and "paralyze" the assets of Russia's central bank.

President Vladimir Putin's government has spent the last eight years preparing Russia for tough sanctions by building up a war chest of $630 billion in foreign currency reserves, but his "fortress" economy is now under unprecedented assault and at least some of that financial firepower is now frozen.

"We will also ban the transactions of Russia's central bank and freeze all its assets, to prevent it from financing Putin's war," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement Sunday.

The collapse in the currency prompted the Russian central back to implement emergency measures on Monday, including a huge hike in interest rates to 20% from 9.5%.

Read more here:

9:14 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Analysis: Is the Ukraine-Russia meeting a path forward or political sideshow?

Analysis by CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

The stage is set for a meeting between Russia and Ukraine Monday on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River.

Is this a diplomatic breakthrough or a political sideshow while Russia continues its offensive in Ukraine?

Let's be clear what this isn't: The meeting is not a summit between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Instead, it's a meeting between delegations from both sides. Zelensky's office said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko called the Ukrainian President Sunday and offered safety guarantees, saying Lukashenko had "taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on the Belarusian territory will remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation's travel, meeting and return."

But can Ukraine accept any guarantees from Lukashenko? This is the same leader whose authorities forced down a Ryanair flight over Belarusian airspace last year, alleging a "security alert," and arrested a young Belarusian dissident, prompting international outcry.

Monday's planned meeting follows a flurry of statements from the Kremlin, which claimed earlier the Ukrainian side had countered Russia's proposal to meet in Belarus with a proposal to meet in Warsaw and then dropped contact. Zelensky's office denied claims they refused to negotiate.

What should we expect from talks? Zelensky himself on Sunday set low expectations for the meeting, and it is tempting to guess that the meeting on the border will yield little. But it does offer Putin at least some potential room for an exit from the war in Ukraine, if his troops continue to encounter battlefield setbacks against Ukrainian forces.

Putin's offensive is still in its very early days, and Russia can commit more combat power to Ukraine. Quite ominously, Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin leader of Russia's Chechnya region, called on the Russian military Sunday to expand its offensive in Ukraine.

Read the full analysis here:

4:29 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Ukraine demands "immediate ceasefire" and withdrawal of Russian forces

From CNN’s Ivana Kottasova in Kyiv

Ukraine demanded an “immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian troops” on Monday as the country’s delegation arrived for talks with Russia at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, a statement from the Ukrainian presidency said. 

The delegation includes several high-ranking officials, but not Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky himself.

9:13 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Ukrainian delegation arrives at Belarusian border for talks, president's office says

From CNN's Victoria Butenko and Ivana Kottasová in Kyiv

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov (second left) arrives to attend the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus on February 28.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov (second left) arrives to attend the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus on February 28. (Sergei Kholodilin/BELTA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian delegation has arrived to the area at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border for talks with Russia, the Ukrainian Presidency announced Monday morning. 

According to a statement, the delegation includes, among others, the Minister of Defence Oleksiy Reznikov, adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podoliak and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Mykola Tochytskyi.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is not part of the delegation.

4:03 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Russian military announces "safe" corridor for Kyiv residents to leave

From CNN's Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Smoke rises over the Kyiv skyline on February 27.
Smoke rises over the Kyiv skyline on February 27. (Evgen Kotenko/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

The Russian military announced an "open and safe" corridor for Ukrainian civilians to leave the capital, Kyiv, on Monday.

"We appeal to the people of Kyiv. All civilians in the city can freely leave the capital of Ukraine along the Kyiv-Vasilkov (Vasylkiv) highway. This route is open and safe," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Defense, said in a statement.
"Once again, I want to emphasize that the armed forces of the Russian Federation strike only military targets. The civilian population is not in danger."

At least 352 civilians in Ukraine have been killed since the invasion began, including 14 children, according to Ukraine's Interior Ministry. Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of targeting civilian infrastructure, including residential buildings and schools.

Konashenkov's statement also included a baseless claim that the Ukrainian government was using Kyiv residents as a "human shield," repeating an allegation that Ukrainian "nationalists" have deployed artillery in residential areas of the capital.

CNN teams on the ground in Kyiv have seen firsthand Ukrainian civilian volunteers — even members of Parliament — taking up arms and making preparations to defend the capital.

3:31 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

Ukrainian military says Russian offensive is slowing, accuses invading troops of hitting civilian targets

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Russian troops "have slowed their offensive" but are still pushing forward in Ukraine, according to a statement from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Monday. 

"During the air-offensive operation, the enemy continued engaging military and civilian airfields, military command points, air defense systems, important critical infrastructure, populated centers, and units in the area of defense," the statement read.

"In violation of the norms of international humanitarian law, the occupiers have insidiously inflicted missile strikes on residential buildings in Zhytomir and Chernyhiv."

The statement added that Ukrainian forces were repelling Russian attacks, "forcing the enemy to abandon the offensive."

As of Monday, artillery fire from one of the Ukrainian brigades had destroyed more than five Russian convoys, the statement said.

CNN is unable to independently verify these claims.

Desertion claims: The statement also said "the enemy is demoralized and sustaining heavy losses," and that "frequent cases of desertion and disobedience were noted."

"The enemy realized that propaganda and reality were different. The occupiers are afraid of us. Defenders of Ukraine continue to maintain a stable defense," it said.

On Sunday, Russia acknowledged a number of injuries and deaths among their troops for the first time since the invasion began, but did not provide precise numbers.

3:55 a.m. ET, February 28, 2022

UK Defense Ministry: Most Russian forces still more than 30 kilometers north of Kyiv

From Sharon Braithwaite in London

Satellite image of a damaged aircraft hanger at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, Ukraine, on February 27.
Satellite image of a damaged aircraft hanger at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, Ukraine, on February 27. (Maxar Technologies/Getty Images)

The bulk of Russian ground forces are still more than more than 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) north of Kyiv, the UK's Ministry of Defense said in a tweet on Monday.

Russia's advance was "slowed by Ukrainian forces defending Hostomel airfield, a key Russian objective for day one of the conflict," the ministry said.

"Heavy fighting continues around Chernihiv and Kharkiv however both cities remain under Ukrainian control.
"Logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance.
"Despite continued attempts to suppress details of the conflict from the Russian population, the Russian Armed Forces has for the first time been forced to acknowledge suffering casualties."

Some context: For the first time since the beginning of the invasion, Russian authorities acknowledged a number of deaths and injuries among their forces in Ukraine on Sunday — but did not provide precise numbers.

Russia also claimed the losses were “considerably lower” than those seen in Ukrainian forces.