US President Joe Biden has announced what he called the “first tranche” of sanctions against Russia, including steps to starve the country of financing, saying Moscow had started an invasion of Ukraine.
“We’re implementing sanctions on Russia’s sovereign debt. That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing,” Biden said, adding that the measures also would target financial institutions, and Russian “elites”.
The US earlier said Russia’s deployment of troops into two Moscow-backed, self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine amounts to the “beginning of an invasion”.
The move came after the United Kingdom slapped sanctions on Russian banks and high net worth individuals while Germany, another of Kyiv’s Western allies, halted the approval process for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
Moscow has brushed aside the threat of retaliatory measures from the West, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying Russia was accustomed to sanctions.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a previously planned meeting with Lavrov that was set to take place in Geneva on Thursday, accusing Moscow of rejecting diplomacy.
The live blog is now closed; thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for February 22:
‘The time for sanctions is now,’ says Ukraine foreign minister
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the US sanctions against Russian banks on Tuesday, calling on the world to use “all its economic might to punish Russia”.
Speaking alongside the US’s Blinken, Kuleba accused Putin of killing the Minsk Agreement that aimed to restore peace in eastern Ukraine by recognising the independence of two breakaway Ukrainian regions.
“Russia’s move is a grave breach of international law and a new act of aggression against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Therefore, Ukraine strongly believes that the time for sanctions is now,” he said.
UN chief slams Russia for recent moves
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia for recognising the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, saying the move violated the “territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine” as well as the UN charter.
“The principles of the UN charter are not an a-la-carte menu; they cannot be applied selectively,” Guterres told reporters.
He also said he was concerned by the “perversion” of peacekeeping, referring to Putin’s plans to send Russian forces to Luhansk and Donetsk to “maintain peace”.
“When troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, they are not impartial peacekeepers,” Guterres said. “They are not peacekeepers at all.”
Blinken calls off upcoming meeting with Lavrov
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called off an upcoming meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, previously planned for Thursday, saying that Washington will not allow Moscow to “claim the pretense of diplomacy” while escalating the crisis.
“Now that we see the invasion is beginning, and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy, it does not make sense to go forward with that meeting at this time,” Blinken said on Tuesday.
Blinken: ‘Greatest threat to security in Europe since World War II’
Blinken accused Putin of aiming to “destroy Ukraine’s democracy” and control the country and its people.
“This is the greatest threat to security in Europe since World War II,” Blinken said. “Ukraine is in danger. President Putin is blatantly and violently breaking the laws and principles that have kept the peace across Europe and around the world for decades.”
Sanctioned Russian banks hold more than $80bn in assets: Blinken
Blinken said the two Russian banks targeted by US sanctions on Tuesday, VEB and PSB, hold more than $80bn in assets.
“These measures will freeze their assets in the United States, prohibit American individuals or businesses from doing any transactions with them, shut them out of the global financial system and foreclose access to the US dollar,” Blinken said.
US Republican Senator calls Biden’s sanctions ‘woefully inadequate’
Senator Lindsey Graham, a key Republican and foreign policy hawk, criticised the sanctions announced by Biden against Russia as “woefully inadequate”, urging “crippling” measures against what he called “Putin’s invasion”.
“This is a critical moment in history…..and President Biden is NOT seizing the moment,” Graham wrote in a series of Tweets. “The sanctions outlined are woefully inadequate to deter Putin’s efforts to redraw the European map and dismember a neighboring democracy.”
Is Putin’s latest move a prelude to a wider conflict?
Click here to watch the latest episode of Inside Story, discussing the recent developments in the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
US Treasury reveals details of sanctions
The US Treasury revealed details about sanctions against Russian banks, sovereign debt and elites close to Putin, which had been announced by Biden earlier in the day.
The measures target the Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank (VEB), which the US said is “crucial” to Russia’s ability to raise funds, and Promsvyazbank Public Joint Stock Company (PSB), described by the Treasury as “critical” to Russia’s defense sector.
The US also tightened restrictions on dealings in Russia’s sovereign debt, a move that the Treasury said “creates a strain on resources for the Russian state and greater risk for its ability to manage its finances.”
The administration also released the names of three Russian businessmen who have been sanctioned along with members of their family. It described the men as part of Putin’s inner circle and the “Russian regime’s kleptocracy”.
The U.S. is imposing immediate economic costs in response to actions in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, including sanctioning major Russian state-owned financial institutions, Kremlin-connected elites, & additional restrictions on Russian sovereign debt.https://t.co/zwKGWVJDd8
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) February 22, 2022
Biden decries ‘beginning of a Russian invasion’
Biden announced new sanctions against Russia and decried what he called the “beginning of a Russian invasion” of Ukraine. Click here to read what the US president said in his remarks from the White House on Tuesday.
Biden meets with Ukraine FM to ‘reaffirm’ support
Biden met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to “reaffirm” support for Kyiv, the White House has said.
Biden met the top diplomat after Russia recongised two breakaway Ukrainian regions as independent to “reaffirm the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, the White House said in a statement.
Biden assured Kuleba the United States “would continue providing security assistance and macroeconomic support to Ukraine,” while also reiterating Washington’s readiness “to respond swiftly and decisively to any further Russian aggression against Ukraine”.
‘Big concern’ among people in Mariupol, a frontline city in southeastern Ukraine
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Mariupol – a front-line city in southeastern Ukraine – said “sporadic shelling” has been heard from the area throughout the day.
There is “big concern” amongst people in these frontline villages because they are aware of an evacuation that is ongoing in the Russian-backed separatists controlled areas of people close to the frontline.
“No such evacuation plan has been put into place here,” Stratford said.
“This comes at a time this evening as well after a statement made in the last hour or so by the Ukrainian military that from tomorrow 6am local time … they’re going to restrict access to that area on a temporary basis,” he said.
“They don’t go into great detail but they say the only people allowed in that area will be international humanitarian aid organisations delivering aid.”
Biden authorises movement of additional troops, equipment
“I have authorised additional movements of US forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen our Baltic Allies – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,” Biden has said.
“Let me be clear these are totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message that the United States together with our allies will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made it to NATO,” he told reporters.
Biden announces sanctions against Russia, says ‘invasion is beginning’
Biden has announced new sanctions against Russia, saying Russian “invasion” of Ukraine is “beginning”.
“We’ve cut off Russian government from Western finance, can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets Starting tomorrow,” Biden said.
In the days ahead, the US will also “post sanctions on Russian elites and their family members. They share the corrupt games of the Kremlin policies, and should share in the pain as well,” Biden said.
EU to impose further sanctions on Russia in event of invasion, Scholz says
Germany and the European Union are in a position to decide on further sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine, which cannot be ruled out, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.
Scholz said Russia’s recognition of the two regions of Luhansk and Donetsk was not compatible with international law and endangered the sovereignty of Ukraine.
“We cannot accept this,” Scholz was quoted as saying by broadcaster RTL, adding that respecting borders was important for peace in Europe.
“If everyone in Europe starts leafing through history books where borders used to be, then we have a very unsettling time ahead of us,” Scholz added.
Students try bulletproof vests and escape drills in east Ukraine
Students in the eastern city of Kharkiv are learning about bulletproof vests and explosives, as well as practising evacuation drills and first aid.
“We have started giving those drills for children more often to prevent situations such as children getting injured, or, God forbid, death,” civilian defence specialist Oleksandr Shevchuk said.
“We … let them try on our uniforms, bulletproof vests and helmets. Show them what explosive items can be, so that they can become aware of situations that may happen to them.”
Student Nazar said, “This is quite relevant, given the situation that is generally developing between Ukraine and Russia. Yes, scary, very scary.”
Biden may sanction Russia for ‘leverage’ to enter diplomatic path: Analyst
Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara, said US President Joe Biden has been the one who has been “talking most about the potential escalation going on in Ukraine”.
“He’s been persistent that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin sooner or later is going to be taking the step into Ukraine,” Bishara said.
“We probably will see sanctions that probably will hurt Russia, but not hurt it so much to change its calculus,” he said. “I think … these sanctions will be used as leverage to be able to go into the diplomatic track with more capacity to influence Russia’s decisions.”
Russia likely to be invading Ukraine ‘very, very soon’, analyst says
Putin’s intentions were made “very much clear last night when he basically said … he does not believe Ukraine should be a separate entity from Russia,” Peter Zalmayev, executive director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, has said.
“It has been a personal loss and tragedy for Vladimir Putin to see Ukraine go … he wants to bring it back to its knees, under its [Russia’s] control,” Zalmayev told Al Jazeera from Kyiv.
“By recognising these two breakaway states … Putin essentially put an end to the Minsk Agreements, he unilaterally abrogated the agreements himself,” he said. “No matter what he says now, basically he has now de-facto invaded Ukraine by recognising these republics.”
He added: “We’re pretty much looking at the scenario where Russia is going to be invading Ukraine very, very soon.”
Russia says new Western sanctions are illegitimate: TASS
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has said that new Western sanctions against Russia were illegitimate, TASS news agency quoted her as saying.
Biden expected to announce ‘very severe’ sanctions
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Washington, said Biden is expected to announce that there will be “very severe sanctions imposed on Russia, particularly on the banking sector, those involved in the Russian Duma … and people very close to Vladimir Putin himself”.
Biden is not going to “throw the sanctions kitchen sink at Russia at this stage – that is to allow some room for manoeuvre and negotiation,” he said.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin “can avoid war” would suggest that there is still a diplomatic offramp, Fisher said.
“They’re working all avenues to try and get him … to meet Antony Blinken on Thursday so that they could discuss that the Russians go no further,” he said, referring to the US secretary of state.
Pentagon chief calls on Putin to avoid full-blown ‘war of choice’
Russian President Vladimir Putin can still avoid a full-blown war of choice, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has said at the start of talks at the Pentagon with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
“Mr. Putin can still avoid a full-blown, tragic war of choice,” Austin told Kuleba, adding, “We will continue to work closely with you.”
Before reporters were escorted from the room, Kuleba said, “My message is simple: [a] strong Ukraine is the best deterrence of Russia.”
EU ready to take more actions against Russia if needed, von der Leyen says
The European Union is ready to take further action against Russia if Moscow keeps on ramping up its military activity in Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.
“Our action today is a response to Russia’s aggressive behavior”, von der Leyen said during a news conference.
“If Russia continues to escalate this crisis that it has created, we are ready to take further action in response,” she added, also stressing the need for the EU to be less dependent on Russia for gas.
France cancels Friday meeting with Russian foreign minister
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said he would cancel the Paris invitation to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov for talks after Russia’s recognition of breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
“It’s no,” Le Drian told journalists in Paris when asked whether the Friday meeting would go ahead.
Russia says it is evacuating its diplomats from Ukraine, citing threats
Russia has said it is evacuating the country’s diplomatic personnel from Ukraine because they received threats.
The ministry said Russian diplomats in Ukraine have received multiple threats, adding that they will be evacuated “in the nearest time”.
Italy preparing financial aid for Ukraine
The Italian government is preparing financial aid for Ukraine, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has said.
“We are building a roadmap to provide financial aid to Ukraine, which is in obvious difficulty at the moment,” Di Maio said in a video statement after a conference call with his counterparts in the Group of Seven industrialised nations.
Putin says recognises borders of entirety of east Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow had recognised the independence of Ukraine’s separatist regions within their administrative borders, including territory controlled by Kyiv.
“Well, we recognised them. And this means that we recognised all their fundamental documents, including the constitution,” Putin told reporters. “And the constitution spells out the borders within the Donetsk and Lugansk regions at the time when they were part of Ukraine.”
EU to sanction Russian individuals and entities
European Union foreign ministers have agreed to sanction 27 Russians and entities after Moscow recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, as well banks, the defence sector and limiting Russian access to European capital markets.
All members of Russia’s Duma, parliament’s lower house, will be hit with EU sanctions, which typically involve travel bans and asset freezes.
“This package of sanctions that has been approved by unanimity by the member states will hurt Russia, and it will hurt a lot,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a news conference alongside France’s foreign minister at a meeting in Paris.
UK’s Johnson and France’s Macron agree on need to work together on Russian sanctions
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to continue to work together to target those who supported Putin’s “aggressive approach”, Johnson’s office has said.
“The leaders agreed they needed to continue to work in lockstep to target Russian individuals and entities bankrolling President Putin’s aggressive approach,” a spokesperson for Johnson said after the British and French leaders spoke by phone.
“Russia’s actions don’t just threaten Ukraine’s sovereignty, but are a blatant attack on freedom and democracy, the leaders agreed.”
Putin says deployment of troops to Ukraine depends on ‘situation on the ground’
Putin has said that his decision to send troops to eastern Ukraine would depend on the situation on the ground.
“I didn’t say that the troops would go there right after our meeting with you here,” he told reporters. “Secondly, it’s impossible to predict any specific outline of possible actions at all, it depends on the specific situation that is developing on the spot, on the ground.”
Putin says ‘best’ if Ukraine drops NATO bid, adopts neutrality
Putin has said that the “best” solution to the Ukraine crisis would be for Kyiv to drop its NATO membership ambitions and stay neutral.
“The best solution to the issue would be if the current Kyiv authorities themselves refused to join NATO and maintained neutrality,” Putin said.
Putin says Ukraine’s Minsk peace process is finished, blames Kyiv
Putin has said that the Minsk peace agreement on Ukraine no longer existed and that there was nothing left to fulfil, but he blamed Kyiv instead of Moscow for killing it off.
“The Minsk agreements do not exist now, we recognised the DNR and LNR,” Putin said, using the abbreviations for the separatist-held regions in Donetsk and Lugansk.
Putin gets green light to deploy troops to eastern Ukraine
Putin has received the green light from his upper house of parliament to deploy Russian military forces to two separatist-held regions of eastern Ukraine for what lawmakers said would be a “peacekeeping” mission.
The upper chamber’s lawmakers voted unanimously in favour after Putin asked for permission to deploy forces abroad. The decision takes immediate effect, senior lawmaker Andrei Klishas told the chamber.
“By approving the use of the armed forces abroad, we assume they will be peacekeeping forces – forces designed to maintain peace and stability in the [self-proclaimed east Ukrainian] republics,” Valentina Matvienko, the upper house’s speaker, said before the vote.
Russia continues to plan for Ukraine attack, NATO chief says
Russia has not stopped planning for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine since recognising the independence of two breakaway regions in the country’s east, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says.
“Every indication is that Russia is continuing to plan for a full-scale attack of Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told a news conference at the US-led military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.
“We continue to call on Russia to step back … it’s never too late not to attack,” he added.
Putin ratifies treaties with breakaway Ukrainian regions
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ratified friendship treaties with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), the Kremlin says.
Moscow has said the step will allow it to build military bases in the breakaway regions, deploy troops there, agree to a joint defence posture and tighten economic integration.
Donetsk and Luhansk: What you should know about the ‘republics’
Who has followed Russia in recognising the controversial, Moscow-backed statelets in Ukraine? And what is life like there?
Click here to find out.
Russians bemoan Putin’s decision to recognise ‘republics’
While government-friendly media celebrate Moscow’s move, many outside of Russia’s corridors of power are critical of their president’s latest gambit.
Read more here.
Ukraine says partners are ‘finally’ listening on Russia sanctions
Ukraine is cautiously optimistic that its allies are “finally” listening to Kyiv about the need to impose sanctions on Russia, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says.
Addressing a news briefing, Kuleba said he would have more talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken over the crisis and that separately he had contacted the UK and other countries with additional requests for weapons.
Putin seeks permission from lawmakers to use troops abroad
Putin has asked the country’s upper house of parliament for permission to use its armed forces abroad, the chamber’s speaker says.
Deputy Defence Minister Nikolay Pankov told a session of the chamber that the troops would support separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“Negotiations have stalled. The Ukrainian leadership has taken the path of violence and bloodshed,” a uniformed Pankov said during an ongoing unscheduled session of the Federation Council called at Putin’s request.
Putin on Monday announced he would deploy troops to the DPR and the LPR as part of Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions.
G7 foreign ministers agree to condemn Russian recognitions, Japan says
The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialised nations have agreed to condemn Russia’s recognition of two breakaway regions in Ukraine, Japan’s foreign minister says.
Yoshimasa Hayashi made the comment to reporters following a call with his counterparts from the G7. The ministers agreed that Russia’s recognition of the DPR and the LPR was in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as international law, he said.
Russia casts boundary issue of breakaway regions as future issue
Russia’s foreign ministry has said the boundaries of the two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine formally recognised by Moscow is a matter to be resolved in the future, the country’s Interfax news agency reports.
Belarus to buy military hardware from Russia in coming years: Report
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has announced Minsk plans to buy military helicopters, jets and anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia in the coming years, the Belarusian state news agency, Belta, reports.
Lukashenko was quoted as saying Belarus wanted to intensify its military cooperation with Russia to improve its defence capabilities at a time of soaring tensions in Europe.
Ukraine-Russia crisis: 5 things to know about Putin’s move
Images of Russian military vehicles entering areas held by Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east have shocked the world.
But how did the crisis reach this stage? Here is a handy explainer to get you up to speed with what has happened so far, and what might be about to unfold next.
‘To save Russia means to fight for peace’: Navalny
Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has slammed Putin for his role in the crisis, warning there could be widespread bloodshed as a result of his actions.
“Thanks to Putin, hundreds of Ukrainians and Russian citizens may die now, and in the future, this number may reach tens of thousands,” Navalny tweeted in a series of posts focused on the situation.
“Putin and his senile thieves from the Security Council and United Russia are the enemies of Russia and its main threat, not Ukraine and not the West. Putin kills and wants to kill more,” he added, citing the country’s top security body and its largest political party.
“To fight for Russia, to save it, means to fight for the removal of Putin and his kleptocrats from power. But now it also means the banal ‘to fight for peace’.”
16/16 To fight for Russia, to save it, means to fight for the removal of Putin and his kleptocrats from power. But now it also means the banal “to fight for peace”.
— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) February 22, 2022
US welcomes Germany’s Nord Stream 2 move
Washington has welcomed Berlin’s Nord Stream 2 announcement and pledged to follow up with its own measures later.
US President Joe Biden “made clear that if Russia invaded Ukraine, we would act with Germany to ensure Nord Stream 2 does not move forward”, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted.
“We have been in close consultations with Germany overnight and welcome their announcement. We will be following up with our own measures today,” she added.
Hungary to position troops near its border with Ukraine
Hungary will deploy troops near its border with Ukraine, partly in preparation for humanitarian tasks, the country’s defence ministry has announced.
“Hungary’s security is the most important, we are reinforcing the Ukraine-Hungary border,” the ministry said in a statement posted on the government’s official Facebook page. It was not immediately clear how many soldiers would be moved to the frontier.
The ministry added that it was also critical for Hungary to be ready to deliver a humanitarian response in the event of a further escalation in the crisis.
EU to activate cyber-response unit to help Ukraine
The European Union is activating a cyber-response unit to help Ukraine deal with growing threats from Moscow, Lithuania’s deputy defence minister says.
Margiris Abukevicius said in a post on Twitter that Kyiv had requested the Cyber Rapid Response Team, which Lithuania coordinates, be mobilised.
— Margiris Abukevicius (@AbukeviciusM) February 22, 2022
Separatist says Russia recognised breakaway republic on territory of wider region
Russian-backed separatist leader Denis Pushilin says Moscow formally recognised the breakaway DPR within the wider boundaries of eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, much of which is controlled by Ukrainian forces.
Speaking on Russian state television, Pushilin said the matter of the territory not controlled by separatists would be resolved later.
“The border issue is not simple, it will be resolved later,” he said.
Norway to hold NATO exercise as planned next month
Norway will proceed as planned with a long-planned NATO exercise on its soil next month, the country’s prime minister says.
“Cold Response will take place as planned,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference.
Germany could deploy more troops to Lithuania
Germany’s defence minister says Berlin could send additional forces to fellow NATO member state Lithuania in response to Russia’s actions.
“It is clear that we need to apply stricter deterrence measures,” Christine Lambrecht told a joint news conference with her Lithuanian counterpart in Vilnius.
“We are ready to send more troops … to Lithuania and signal that we are together with partners and we are a trustworthy partner in a crisis,” she said.
Is war more likely after Russia recognised rebel statelets?
Click here for an analysis of where Moscow’s latest move might lead next, by Al Jazeera’s Mansur Mirovalev.
UK sanctions five banks and Putin ally
The UK has slapped sanctions on five Russian banks and three high net worth individuals.
“This is the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the UK Parliament, warning that Putin was “establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive” on Ukraine.
He said the individuals being sanctioned will have any assets they hold in the UK frozen and be barred from entering the country. Among them is close Putin ally Gennady Timchenko.
The sanctioned banks are Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.
‘Everything is prepared for an all-out invasion’
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Kyiv, says there is a question mark over how long Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy can stick to his pledge to “stick to the peaceful and diplomatic way” amid the crisis.
“Developments are quite fast, there have been columns of military hardware going into Donetsk and Luhansk,” he said.
“And the crucial point is whether or not Russia and the breakaway republics and their forces … push beyond the contact line, because it is well known that the claim that the separatists have within the Donbas region isn’t just where the [dividing] lines are now, but in a much larger area, and there could be a move to take this entire region.
“And there is no doubt now that every line of intelligence, even from the Ukrainians, suggests that everything is prepared for an all-out invasion of Ukraine.”
Kyiv welcomes Germany’s Nord Stream 2 move
Ukraine’s foreign minister has welcomed Germany’s move to temporarily pull the plug on Nord Stream 2.
“This is a morally, politically and practically correct step in the current circumstances. True leadership means tough decisions in difficult times. Germany’s move proves just that,” Kuleba tweeted.
I welcome Germany’s move to suspend the certification of Nord Stream 2. This is a morally, politically and practically correct step in the current circumstances. True leadership means tough decisions in difficult times. Germany’s move proves just that. @ABaerbock
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 22, 2022
Putin says Russia respects sovereignty of ex-Soviet republics: Report
Putin has said Russia respects the sovereignty of ex-Soviet republics but made an exception with Ukraine because it was under foreign control, the TASS news agency reports.
Kyiv rejects what it says is a stream of propaganda out of Moscow over the crisis, which has seen the Kremlin mass more than 100,000 Russian soldiers and military hardware around its neighbour’s borders.
Central Europe braces for an influx of Ukrainian refugees
The threat of a large-scale Russian invasion looms over Ukraine to the north, south and, especially, the east.
Meanwhile, on its western border, the countries of Central Europe say they are preparing for the possibility that war will send Ukrainians flooding their way.
Some estimate that as many as five million people could flee the country in the worst-case scenario.
Read more here.
Polish president urges Russia sanctions
Polish President Andrzej Duda has called for severe sanctions on Russia.
Speaking after consultations with government ministers on the Ukraine crisis, Duda also urged NATO to further reinforce its eastern flank in response to Moscow’s actions.
Poland is one of the 30 member states of the US-led transatlantic security alliance.
Germany chancellor plays ‘trump card’ as crisis deepens
Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Berlin, says putting Nord Stream 2 on pause until further notice was “the ace” being kept up German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s sleeve while he attempted to persuade Russia to de-escalate the crisis in recent weeks.
“They never wanted to talk about Nord Stream 2 because they wanted to keep it as … a trump card to be played when the time came,” he said. “Now the time has come, and they’ve played that card.”
Read more on the developments here.
Scholz halts Nord Stream 2 certification
Germany’s chancellor has put the certification of Nord Stream 2 on ice in response to Russia’s moves.
“We must reassess the situation, in particular regarding Nord Stream 2,” Scholz said at a news conference in Berlin, adding that Germany’s economy ministry would look again at the project’s certification process given Moscow’s actions.
Read more on the controversial, multibillion-dollar pipeline here.
Russian Duma backs treaties with breakaway regions
Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, has voted in favour of approving friendship treaties with the DPR and LPR.
The treaties, which will enter into force if and when Putin signs off on them, could pave the way for Moscow to build military bases in the separatist-run territories as well as adopt a joint defence posture with the rebels there.
Timeline: Ukraine’s turbulent history
Ukraine has faced significant challenges since winning independence in 1991.
For a timeline of developments, click here.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to weigh axing diplomatic relations with Russia
Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Kyiv is considering breaking off diplomatic relations with Russia and warned Moscow’s recognition of his country’s two breakaway regions was a precursor for a further military assault.
“We believe that with this decision, Russia is creating the legal basis for further military aggression against Ukraine, thus violating all possible international obligations,” the Ukrainian president said.
Zelenskyy added that he had received a request from Ukraine’s foreign ministry to “examine the question of breaking off relations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation”. He said he would now “examine and work on this issue”.
OSCE to hold extraordinary meeting
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will hold an extraordinary meeting on the Ukraine crisis later today.
The closed-door meeting of the body’s permanent council is set to take place at 14:00 GMT. Poland, which currently holds the security organisation’s chairmanship, said it will address Russia’s “breach of international law and fundamental OSCE principles”.
Erdogan slams ‘unacceptable’ Russian move: Report
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced Russia’s recognition of the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as “unacceptable” and called on all parties to respect international laws, according to a report by Turkish news channel NTV.
“We see this decision by Russia as unacceptable. We repeat our call for common sense and respect for international law by all sides,” Erdogan told reporters, adding Ankara had prepared “precaution packages” as a regional country.
NATO member Turkey is a maritime neighbour with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and has good ties with both. Erdogan has offered to mediate in the conflict, warned Russia against invading Ukraine, and criticised the West’s handling of the crisis.
Ukraine’s defence minister warns troops of ‘hardship’ ahead
Ukraine’s defence minister has told the country’s troops to be ready for war with Russia and warned them to be ready to face “hardship” ahead.
“There will be hardship. There will be losses. We will have to endure pain, overcome fear and despair,” Oleksiy Reznikov said in a message posted on his ministry’s website.
But he also promised “certain victory” in the face of the Russian threat.
“The Kremlin has taken another step to reviving the Soviet Union,” Reznikov said, adding that Putin had shown his “real face … the face of a criminal who wants to hold the whole free world hostage”.
Prague prepared for Russian supplies cut, Ukrainian refugees
The Czech Republic is prepared for various scenarios including a potential interruption of supplies of energy commodities from Russia and an influx of refugees from Ukraine, Prime Minister Petr Fiala has told the country’s parliament.
Fiala added that the West must be united and prepared to impose harsh financial and economic sanctions on Moscow over the crisis.
Why Putin recognised separatist-held regions
As international alarm over Moscow’s move grows, analysts say the Kremlin’s intention is to cause “permanent internal chaos” in Ukraine.
Read more here.
Lavrov brushes off Western sanctions
Russia’s foreign minister says the West would have imposed sanctions on his country regardless of events and described the response to Moscow’s recognition of the DPR and LPR as predictable.
“Our European, American, British colleagues will not stop and will not calm down until they have exhausted all their possibilities for the so-called ‘punishment of Russia’. They are already threatening us with all manner of sanctions or, as they say now, ‘the mother of all sanctions’,” Lavrov said.
“Well, we’re used to it. We know that sanctions will be imposed anyway, in any case. With or without reason.”
Atmosphere of ‘anger and fear’ throughout Ukraine
Al Jazeera’s Simmons, reporting from Kyiv, says there is an “atmosphere throughout Ukraine of anger and fear”.
“If you look at social media, all over there is reaction from young people and older people questioning what the future holds for them,” he said.
“There is a real concern and a growing doubt about reliance on diplomacy … all of the talking has resulted in action, and that action has been the intervention of Russia on Ukrainian soil.”
Moscow not yet discussing military bases in eastern Ukraine: Report
A deputy Russian foreign minister has said Moscow is not yet talking about setting up military bases in eastern Ukraine, but that two draft treaties would allow it to do so and that Russia would be ready to act if needed, the RIA news agency reports.
The official, Andrey Rudenko, made the comment as Russian politicians were set to discuss and vote on friendship treaties with the two breakaway Ukrainian regions which Putin has recognised as independent.
UK to immediately impose economic sanctions on Russia
The UK will immediately impose economic sanctions on Russia following Moscow’s moves in eastern Ukraine, Johnson says.
The British prime minister told reporters the measures would be “targeted not just at entities in Donbas and Luhansk and Donetsk, but in Russia itself – targeting Russian economic interests as hard as we can.”
Putin will find he has “gravely miscalculated” if Russia invades Ukraine, he added, before warning that Moscow appeared to be bent on a full-scale invasion.
“I think that the tragedy of the present situation is that President Putin has surrounded himself with like-minded advisers who tell him that Ukraine is not a proper country. And I think that he is going to find that he has gravely miscalculated,” Johnson said.
OSCE voices ‘deep regret’ over Moscow’s move
The special representative of the OSCE’s chairman-in-office in Ukraine says Putin’s decision to recognise Ukraine’s breakaway republics is a source of “deep regret”.
“This decision … can be seen contradicting the Minsk agreements in different ways, including the aim of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions being part of Ukraine with a special status,” Ambassador Mikko Kinnunen said in a statement, citing agreements aimed at ending the war in eastern Ukraine.
“As [with] all [other] OSCE participating States, Russia has [a] commitment to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of others, including Ukraine,” he added. “It is of crucial importance that today’s decision will not lead to new military action and bloodshed.”
UK says Putin has ‘chosen confrontation over dialogue’
Putin’s actions towards Ukraine show he has chosen confrontation with the West over dialogue, the UK’s health minister says.
“We’ve always preferred dialogue and still continue to do so but it’s clear from President Putin’s actions that he has chosen confrontation over dialogue,” Sajid Javid told the BBC.
He also warned the current situation was as grave as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when a confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
“I do think it’s as serious a situation as that,” Javid said.
NATO, EU cannot allow violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Spanish minister says
NATO and EU member states cannot allow Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity to go unchecked, Spain’s defence minister says.
“Russia must know the firmness of EU and NATO is absolute and total,” Margarita Robles said in an interview to radio station COPE. “We cannot allow a violation of international law nor the attack to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which is what has happened, without a doubt.”
Spain and its partners would still give a chance to diplomacy, she added.
Amnesty calls on all parties to respect human rights law
Amnesty International’s Secretary-General says the protection of civilians in Ukraine is an “absolute priority”.
“While the potential for full-blown conflict is now a devastating reality, every effort must be made to minimise civilian suffering and prioritise humanity in this crisis. It is a legal obligation of all parties to do so,” Agnès Callamard said in a statement.
She also urged all parties to ensure the protection of civilian lives and refrain from indiscriminate attacks or the use of banned weapons.
“We also call on all parties to allow and facilitate access of humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to civilians affected by hostilities,” Callamard said.
Damascus to recognise breakaway republics: Report
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will recognise the independence of the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, a Russian politician in charge of ties with Damascus has told a Russian news agency.
“I spoke about the situation in Donbas with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad,” Dmitry Sablin, who coordinates the ties between Russian and Syrian parliaments, told the RIA Novosti news agency.
“He said that Syria would be ready to recognise them the way it had recognised [breakaway Georgian regions of] South Ossetia and Abkhazia” after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, Sablin added.
Separatists say Ukrainian ‘saboteurs’ behind deadly blast
A Russian-backed separatist official in eastern Ukraine has accused Ukrainian “saboteurs” of detonating a mine on a road in a breakaway region that killed three civilians, Interfax reports.
The separatist official did not provide evidence and there was no immediate comment from Ukraine, which has denied a spate of claims from Moscow and the rebel republics of other alleged incidents in recent days.
Greece says Russia move in eastern Ukraine violates international law
Russia’s formal recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine violates international law, the Minsk agreements and the country’s territorial integrity, Greece’s foreign ministry says.
“Greece supports the respect of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of all states and condemns any decision that violates fundamental principles of international law,” the ministry said.
Athens will coordinate with its EU and NATO partners on the response to Russia’s decision, it added.
Iran’s foreign ministry calls for dialogue to resolve crisis
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman says Tehran is closely watching developments in Ukraine and calls on all sides to refrain from any action that would increase tensions.
“Unfortunately, NATO interference and provocative moves led by the United States have made conditions in the region more complicated,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
Khatibzadeh also urged all parties involved to resolve the crisis through dialogue.
Russia says too early to discuss borders of breakaway Ukrainian regions
Russia’s foreign ministry has said that Moscow needed to first ratify its friendship treaties with the two breakaway Ukrainian regions before it could discuss matters like the exact borders of the territories, RIA Novosti reports.
Russia’s parliament is expected to review friendship treaties with the territories on Tuesday.
‘We are not afraid’, says Ukraine’s Zelenskyy
Zelenskyy has told a news conference that his country is “not afraid of anything or anyone”
“We are on our own land,” the Ukrainian president said. “We owe nothing to anyone. And we will not give anything to anyone.”
World reaction to Putin’s move to recognise Ukraine rebel regions
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise the independence of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine has drawn condemnation.
Read more here.
Russia tells UN it won’t allow ‘bloodbath’ in Ukraine’s Donbas
Russia’s ambassador to the UN says that eastern Ukraine has been on the brink of a new “Ukrainian military adventure” that Moscow could not allow, and vowed it would not let a “new bloodbath” happen in the Donbas region.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council (UNSC), the Russian ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, also warned Western powers to “think twice” and not worsen the situation in Ukraine.
China at UN urges all parties in Ukraine crisis to exercise restraint
China’s Ambassador to the UN has called on all parties to exercise restraint and avoid any action that might fuel tensions.
In very brief remarks at an emergency meeting of the UNSC over Ukraine, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun also said Beijing welcomed and encouraged every effort for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Kenya cites colonial past in condemnation of Russia moves
Kenya’s ambassador at the UN, Martin Kimani, says his country and many other African nations had been “birthed” with the end of colonialism and had not been able to set their own borders.
But instead of pursuing states based on “ethnic, racial or religious homogeneity”, which carried the risk of decades of “bloody wars”, the countries “agreed that we would settle for the borders we inherited”.
“Rather than form nations that looked ever backwards into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known,” he said.
Kenya makes strong statement opposing the undermining of the sovereignty & territorial integrity of #Ukraine during the emergency meeting of the #SecurityCouncil at 9pm on 21st February. See full statement delivered below 👇🏿 pic.twitter.com/3S36UNW7OE
— Permanent Mission of Kenya to the UN 🇰🇪 🇺🇳 (@KenyaMissionUN) February 22, 2022
Blinken and China’s Wang Yi discuss Ukraine
The US secretary of state has had a call with China’s foreign minister on “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine” as well as North Korea.
“The Secretary underscored the need to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
He gave no other details of Blinken’s call with his Chinese counterpart.
What will Putin do next?
Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in the US and an expert in international affairs, says he is concerned about what turn the crisis will take next.
“The big question in my mind is whether Putin is going to say: ‘Mission accomplished. I’ve protected my ethnic kin in Donbas’, or is this the first move in what will likely be a Russian invasion of the rest of the country,” Kupchan told Al Jazeera.
Noting that the Russian president’s speech on Monday suggested that Russia and Ukraine were one and the same, Kupchan said he was worried about the prospect for further escalation.
“That sounded to me like an ideological foundation for going in, toppling the government and bringing Ukraine into a Russian sphere of influence,” he said.
US: Russia ‘tore Minsk agreement to shreds’
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, has said Russia’s move to recognise the Donetsk and Luhansk rebel areas “tore the Minsk agreement to shreds”.
She said Washington would be announcing retaliatory sanctions later today.
You can read more on the Minsk agreement here.
UN Security Council adjourns
The emergency meeting of the Security Council has been adjourned after about 90 minutes.
Ukraine’s representative Sergiy Kyslytsya was the second last diplomat to speak and condemned Putin’s “illegal and illegitimate” decision to recognise the rebel-held areas in Ukraine’s east.
He equated Russia to a virus that was affecting the world and infecting even the UN.
“The UN is sick; that’s a statement of fact,” Kyslytsya said, echoing the Albanian representative’s comments on previous Russian manoeuvres. “It’s been hit by a virus spread by the Kremlin. Will it succumb to this virus? It’s in the hands of the members. Who is next?”
Russia blames Ukraine, Western countries for escalation of crisis
Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has just finished addressing the council.
He said some of the previous statements had been “highly emotional” and claimed Russia had been forced to act because of alleged Ukrainian intransigence over the rebel-held areas in Ukraine’s east and its “bellicose rhetoric”.
“We remain open to diplomacy, but allowing a bloodbath in the Donbas is not what we intend to do,” Nebenzia said.
He ended his speech by blaming Western countries for contributing to the deterioration of the situation.
China delivers brief statement on Ukraine crisis
China’s UN representative Zhang Jun has made a very brief statement to the UNSC.
Zhang said Beijing was paying “close attention” to developments in Ukraine and urged “all parties” to “exercise restraint and avoid any action that might fuel tensions”.
Unlike the speakers before him, he did not condemn Moscow’s decision to recognise the two separatist-held territories. Zhang said it was a “complex” situation.
US diplomats to spend night in Poland
The US State Department has announced its diplomats will spend the night in Poland for security reasons.
They had already been moved from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, to the western city of Lviv.
“The fact that we are taking prudent precautions for the sake of the safety of U.S. government personnel and U.S. citizens, as we do regularly worldwide, in no way undermines our support for, or our commitment to, Ukraine,” Blinken said in a statement. “Our commitment to Ukraine transcends any one location.”
The State Department again urged all US citizens to leave Ukraine.
Who is at the Security Council meeting?
The UNSC has 15 members – five of them permanent – and each will address the emergency meeting on Ukraine.
China, France, Russia, the UK and the US are the five permanent members and have the power of veto.
The 10 non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms by the UN General Assembly. The current list of UNSC members is set out below, with the end of their term in brackets.
- Albania (2023)
- Brazil (2023)
- Gabon (2023)
- Ghana (2023)
- India (2022)
- Ireland (2022)
- Kenya (2022)
- Mexico (2022)
- Norway (2022)
- United Arab Emirates (2023)
UNSC member states express deep concern over Russia’s moves
Representatives from Albania, France, India and Brazil have addressed the meeting.
All have expressed deep concern about the latest developments in Ukraine, stressing the need for de-escalation and diplomatic dialogue.
Albania’s representative was particularly vehement in his condemnation, noting that Moscow had made similar moves in Georgia in 2008 and Crimea.
“Who will be next?” Ferit Hoxha asked. “Every UN state should be alarmed.”
US says “no one can stand on the sidelines”
Thomas-Greenfield has just finished addressing the council.
The US ambassador to the UN urged the world body to come together and condemn Russia’s move.
“No one can stand on the sidelines,” she said, stressing Moscow’s actions in Ukraine represent “an attack on every UN member state and the UN charter”.
She earlier told the meeting that Putin was wanting a return to the past.
“Putin wants the world to travel back in time, to a time before the United Nations, to a time when empires ruled the world,” she said. “It is not 1919, it is 2022.”
UN Security Council meeting gets under way
The emergency meeting of the UNSC has now begun.
The council is chaired by Russia.
Zelenskyy calls for ‘clear and effective’ steps against Russia
Zelenskyy has accused Russia of wrecking peace talks and ruled out making any territorial concessions.
The Ukrainian president said in an address to the nation that Kyiv was expecting “clear and effective” steps from its allies in response to Moscow’s moves.
‘Key topic: sanctions’: Ukraine’s foreign minister on Blinken call
Kuleba says he has had another call with Blinken over the crisis.
“Key topic: sanctions,” Ukraine’s foreign minister wrote on Twitter, stressing that the imposition of “tough sanctions” was crucial after Russia’s “illegal” declaration.
Taking into account the dynamics of the situation, I had another call with @SecBlinken ahead of our tomorrow’s meeting in Washington, DC. Key topic: sanctions. I underscored the need to impose tough sanctions on Russia in response to its illegal actions.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 22, 2022
World capitals don’t sleep now, regardless of their time zones. The scope & timeline of sanctions are being finalized. Ukraine insists: further Russian actions rely on how the world reacts. Russia must be in no doubt that the world talks the talk and walks the walk on sanctions.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 22, 2022
Biden signs ‘executive order’ on sanctions targeting rebel regions
Biden has signed an executive order to ban all new investment, trade and financing by US citizens to, from, or in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics regions of Ukraine.
The US secretary of state said the move was designed to “prevent Russia from profiting off of this blatant violation of international law”.
“It is not directed at the people of Ukraine or the Ukrainian government and will allow humanitarian and other related activity to continue in these regions,” Blinken said in a statement.
Tanks seen on outskirts of Donetsk: Reuters
The Reuters news agency is reporting a witness seeing columns of military vehicles including tanks on the streets on the outskirts of Donetsk.
The Reuters reporter saw about five tanks in a column on the edge of the city and two more in another part of town.
The report says no insignia were visible, and that no tanks had been seen on the streets in previous days.
UN Security Council to meet after Russia move
The UNSC is due to meet in just over an hour’s time over the Ukraine crisis.
Ukraine called for the meeting and was backed by the US, as well as other countries. Russia holds the rotating presidency of the council this month.
UK to announce ‘significant’ Russia sanctions on Tuesday
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce a “significant package of sanctions” in a few hours’ time.
A spokesperson for Johnson’s administration told Reuters that the sanctions will be agreed to at a meeting of the UK government’s crisis response committee at 06:30 GMT and take immediate effect.
‘Brazen’: US calls for urgent UN Security Council meeting
The US ambassador to the UN has slammed Russia’s move to recognise Luhansk and Donetsk as a “brazen attempt to usurp Ukraine’s sovereignty” and backed Kyiv’s call for an urgent meeting of the UNSC.
“The Security Council must demand that Russia respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a UN Member State,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement.
“There can be no fence-sitters in this crisis,” she warned.
We support Ukraine’s call for an urgent meeting of the @UN Security Council. We must all stand with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s brazen attempt to usurp Ukraine’s sovereign territory. There can be no fence-sitters in this crisis. https://t.co/SI81WBLkmZ
— Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@USAmbUN) February 21, 2022
Russia to weigh military cooperation deals with breakaway regions
Russia’s lower house of parliament will consider draft laws to provide military cooperation and border protection to the breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine later today.
An agreement signed by Putin and published on Monday shows Russia also plans to build military bases in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
Read all the updates from Monday, February 21 here.