A demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Omar Havana/Getty Images
Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday in a move it termed a “special military operation” but that US President Joe Biden called a “brutal assault … without justification” and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy characterized as a “war against the whole of Europe.”
At least 137 people were killed on the first day of Russia’s attack, according to Zelenskyy, who said Ukraine and its citizens will defend themselves.
Other international leaders joined Biden in condemning the attack, and the US, EU and UK all imposed economic sanctions on Russia, as well as putting in place sanctions aimed directly at Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tensions had been building for months and were marked by angry speeches by Putin, as well as the buildup of Russian forces along Ukraine’s borders. Leaders in Washington and across Europe engaged in diplomatic efforts but weren’t able to reach a peaceful resolution.
Ukraine, which had been part of the Russian-led Soviet Union for much of the 20th century, declared its independence in 1991. Since then, the country has been establishing closer ties with Western European nations and the US.
Here’s a look at breaking news on the conflict and the US and international response.
Read also: Ukraine Refugees: How to Help Those Affected by the Russian Invasion
Saturday, Feb. 26 US, allies to expel some Russian banks from SWIFT payments system
Significantly ramping up sanctions, the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the European Commission said Saturday that they’ve committed to “ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed” from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication messaging system. Millions of financial messages and money transfer orders are sent over SWIFT by banks worldwide, including the US Federal Reserve System, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank. The allies said the move will ensure that the affected Russian banks “are disconnected from the international financial system,” harming “their ability to operate globally.”
Social media sites tamp down on ads
Google-owned YouTube reportedly prohibited Russian state-owned media outlet RT and other Russian channels from making money off of ads on the video site. Facebook had made a similar move on Friday, banning Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on its platform. It followed up Saturday with a blog post about the invasion-related steps it’s taking, including expanding its third-party fact-checking capacity in Russian and Ukrainian.
Twitter, meanwhile, had said Friday that it was “temporarily pausing advertisements in Ukraine and Russia to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don’t detract from it.” On Saturday it said “we aware that Twitter is being restricted for some people in Russia and are working to keep our service safe and accessible.”
Russian advance slows
A Pentagon official said Russian forces were “increasingly frustrated by their lack of momentum,” The New York Times reported Saturday, as outgunned Ukrainian forces held on to the capital, Kyiv, overnight amid what a number of news outlets characterized as intense street fighting.
Britain’s ministry of defense cited “strong Ukrainian resistance” and logistical troubles as the causes of the slowdown, the Times said, while the Kremlin asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a pause Friday to allow for possible negotiations with Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, continued his calls for the country to “stand firm,” as Russian forces push in from the north, from Crimea in the south, and from the east through Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Sumy.
Friday, Feb. 25 Meta halts Russian state media ads
The Facebook owner said late Friday it was “prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on our platform anywhere in the world.”
The move followed a partial block on access to Facebook in Russia after the country’s communications regulator claimed the social network had censored some Russian media.
US and EU personally sanction Putin
The European Union and the United States agreed to personally sanction Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday.
“Following a telephone call conversation President Biden held with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and in alignment with the decision by our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing Friday afternoon.
Psaki added that the secretary of the Treasury will also impose “full blocking sanctions on the Russian Direct Investment Fund — a state owned financial entity that functions as a sovereign wealth fund, which is supposed to attract capital into the Russian economy in high-growth sectors.”
Russian forces reach Kyiv
Russian troops reportedly reached Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, early Friday morning. CBS News reported explosions and gunfire in the city.
Zelenskyy posted a video of himself and other government officials. He said they haven’t fled the city and are defending Ukraine.
Zelenskyy talks with Biden
Ukraine’s president said he spoke with Biden on Friday, tweeting that they discussed “strengthening sanctions, concrete defense assistance and an anti-war coalition.”
Earlier Friday, a Kremlin spokesperson reportedly said Putin was willing to negotiate with Ukraine, but later comments by the Russian leader cast doubt on peace talks, according to The New York Times.
Thursday, Feb. 24 Ukraine death toll reaches 137
At least 137 people were killed on the first day of Russia’s assault, Zelenskyy said.
“Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter, calling the Russian military actions “a full-scale invasion.”
“This is a war of aggression,” Kuleba said.
Russia seizes Chernobyl
Russian forces took control of the Chernobyl nuclear power site by Thursday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.
“This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe,” Zelenskyy said on Twitter.
More sanctions hit Russia
Biden gave an address later Thursday, saying the US would cut off Russian banks and stop Russia’s ability to finance and build its military.
“Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will end up costing Russia dearly economically and strategically,” Biden said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said Thursday that Russian banks would face a full asset freeze, and he banned Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot, from landing in the UK. Britain extended sanctions to Belarus for assisting in the Russian invasion.
Biden, G7 condemn Russia
Following a meeting Thursday, the leaders of the Group of Seven nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US — issued a joint statement condemning Russia.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring.”
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Russia’s actions are “an act of aggression against a sovereign, independent and peaceful country.” He added, “this is a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion.”
Russia invades Ukraine
Russia invaded Ukraine at around 4:30 a.m. local time Thursday, with Russian forces launching attacks from the country’s eastern border with Ukraine, from the north in Belarus and from the south in Crimea.
Zelenskyy declared martial law in Ukraine.
Putin repeated discredited claims of violence against ethnic Russians in Ukraine to justify the invasion.
Countries in Central Europe, including Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, prepared to receive an influx of refugees.
Wednesday, Feb. 23 Zelenskyy appeals for peace
Zelenskyy made a plea for peace Wednesday in a last-minute effort to avoid war.
“The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,” Zelenskyy said. “But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.”
Ukrainian banks and government hit by suspected cyberattack
Multiple Ukrainian government websites went offline Feb. 23 as the result of a mass distributed denial of service attack, according to the head of the Eastern European nation’s Ministry of Digital Transformation. Some banking websites were down as well, Mykhailo Fedorov said on Telegram.
DDoS attacks cripple sites by overwhelming them with a flood of requests to serve up web pages.
Tuesday, Feb. 22 First sanctions
The European Union on Tuesday agreed to a package of sanctions against Russia, targeting banks that fund the country’s military operations and banning trade between the EU and the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, while Germany halted approval of the Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany.
Biden on Tuesday said the US will provide defensive assistance to Ukraine and reinforce NATO allies. The Pentagon put 8,500 US troops on high alert to bolster NATO’s response force.
Monday, Feb. 21 Putin recognizes breakaway regions as independent
Putin on Feb. 21 recognized two Moscow-backed regions in eastern Ukraine — Donetsk and Luhansk — as independent entities and ordered the deployment of Russian forces to “keep the peace.” In a lengthy televised address about his decision, Putin also aired historical grievances and made baseless claims of Ukrainian aggression, as reported by The New York Times.
Friday, Feb. 18 US blames Russia for cyberattacks
On Feb. 18, US officials said they believe Russia was responsible for cyberattacks against Ukraine’s banks and military earlier this month. They were the latest in a string of digital incursions that’ve been blamed on Russia, including attacks that defaced government websites and planted destructive malware on Ukrainian computer networks.
“This recent spate of cyberattacks in Ukraine are consistent with what a Russian effort would look like, and laying the groundwork for more disruptive cyberattacks accompanying a potential further invasion of Ukraine sovereign territory,” said Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser, during a briefing at the White House.
Monday, Jan. 10 US pushes back on Russia’s security demands
On Jan. 10, US and Russian officials met for strategic stability talks in Geneva. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said both countries shared concerns, but the US was firm that it would “not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open door policy.”
The meeting came after the US and NATO in December rejected a Russian proposal that called for “a Cold War-like security arrangement,” according to The New York Times, including demands for “ironclad” guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia never become members of NATO.
NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a military alliance among two countries in North America and 28 in Europe. The admission of either Ukraine or Georgia would increase NATO’s presence along Russia’s border.
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