Russia-Ukraine live updates: Zelenskyy warns Russia will try to ‘storm’ Kyiv tonight

(NEW YORK) — Russia’s military launched a long-feared invasion of Ukraine early Thursday, attacking its ex-Soviet neighbor from multiple directions despite warnings of dire consequences from the United States and the international community.

Thursday’s attacks followed weeks of escalating tensions in the region. In a fiery, hourlong speech on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognizing the independence of two Russia-backed separatist areas in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region: the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for stoking the crisis and reiterated its demands to NATO that Ukraine pledges to never join the transatlantic defense alliance.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 25, 5:23 pm
Zelenskyy warns Russia will try to ‘storm’ Kyiv tonight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned in a televised address moments ago that he believes Russian forces will “storm” the capital of Kyiv overnight.

“The night will be more difficult than the day,” he said, as the sound of shelling and loud booms from airstrikes could be heard over Kyiv.

“We cannot lose Kyiv,” he said.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 5:13 pm
Proposed talks of diplomacy come ‘at the barrel of a gun’: State Dept.

The State Department expressed doubts Friday that Moscow-led efforts to set up talks between Kyiv and the Kremlin in Minsk, Belarus, could yield any meaningful results against the backdrop of an ongoing invasion.

“You’ve heard us say before that over the course of several weeks leading up to the events that we’ve seen recently in Ukraine — the assault on Ukraine, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity, and really, its people — that Moscow engaged in a pretense of diplomacy,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a briefing. “Now, we see Moscow suggesting that diplomacy take place at the barrel of a gun, or as Moscow’s rockets, mortars, artillery, target the Ukrainian people. This is not real diplomacy. Those are not the conditions for real diplomacy.”

Price added that if Putin were serious about diplomacy, “He should immediately stop the bombing campaign against civilians, order the withdrawal of his forces from Ukraine, and indicate very clearly — unambiguously to the world — that Moscow is prepared to de-escalate. We have not seen that yet.”

When pressed on if the U.S. would still support Ukraine entering into such talks, or if the State Department had specifically advised Ukraine against engaging with Russia, Price largely demurred, but said that the countries were “operating in pure lockstep.”

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford and Zoha Qamar

Feb 25, 4:13 pm
Ukraine Railway Company adds evacuation trains from Kyiv to western cities

The Ukraine Railway Company said it’s adding a number of evacuation trains running from Kyiv to cities in western Ukraine.

The company said the trains can hold about 10,000 people per day.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Feb 25, 3:52 pm
US to sanction Putin, Lavrov

The U.S. will join the European Union in sanctioning Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

BREAKING: U.S. will sanction Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, and members of the Russian national security team, White House press sec. Jen Psaki says.

LIVE UPDATES: https://t.co/1c4zPiKUga pic.twitter.com/GRFroAR1Xj

— ABC News (@ABC) February 25, 2022

Sanctions on Putin and Lavrov were announced earlier Friday by the EU and the United Kingdom.

Feb 25, 3:42 pm
Biden ‘commended the brave actions of the Ukrainian people’ during call with Zelensky

President Joe Biden said during his Friday phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that he “commended the brave actions of the Ukrainian people” who are defending their country against the Russian military.

On the call Biden said he “also conveyed ongoing economic, humanitarian, and security support being provided by the United States as well as our continued efforts to rally other countries to provide similar assistance.”

Biden, who met with NATO leaders earlier in the day, said in a statement, “Putin has failed in his goal of dividing the West. NATO is as united and resolute as it’s ever been, and NATO will maintain its Open Door to those European states who share our values and who one day may seek to join our Alliance.”

“I have ordered the deployment of additional forces to augment our capabilities in Europe to support our NATO Allies,” Biden said. “And I strongly welcome the decision to activate NATO’s defensive plans and elements of the NATO Response Force to strengthen our collective posture, as well as the commitments by our Allies to deploy additional land and air forces to the eastern flank and maritime forces from the High North to the Mediterranean.”

Feb 25, 3:08 pm
Classified all-member House briefing set for Monday

Administration officials will provide a classified in-person briefing on the Ukraine crisis to all House members on Monday evening following their return from recess, a senior Capitol Hill official confirmed to ABC News.

Members have had unclassified virtual briefings throughout the week.

-ABC News’ Mariam Khan

Feb 25, 3:01 pm
Ukrainian cyber agency reports mass phishing attempts

The Computer Emergency Response Team for Ukraine said it has seen mass phishing emails targeting government websites.

“Mass phishing emails have recently been observed targeting private ‘’ and ‘’ accounts of Ukrainian military personnel and related individuals,” the agency said in a Facebook post Friday. “After the account is compromised, the attackers, by the IMAP protocol, get access to all the messages. Later, the attackers use contact details from the victim’s address book to send the phishing emails.”

They attribute the emails to officers of the Ministry of Defense of Belarus.

-ABC News’ Luke Barr

Feb 25, 2:57 pm
Over 50,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled

More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled their country in less than 48 hours, mostly to to Poland and Moldova, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees tweeted.

The U.S. is coordinating with its European allies and partners who will be on the front lines receiving refugees, a spokesperson for the State Department told ABC News. That includes diplomatic engagements “to ensure neighboring countries keep their borders open to those seeking international protection,” the spokesperson said.

U.N. Relief Chief Martin Griffiths said Friday that over $1 billion will be required for humanitarian efforts over the next three months.

-ABC News’ Cindy Smith, Conor Finnegan

Feb 25, 2:39 pm
EU to sanction Putin, Lavrov: Latvian government

The European Union announced Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be included on its second round of sanctions, according to the Latvian and French governments.

It’s unclear what, if any, financial impact these asset freezes have on either figure.

Hours before the decision was made, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell diplomat said even these EU sanctions on Putin and Lavrov would “certainly” not be enough.

“We are facing a full-fledged invasion of a country by another. It’s not a special forces operations like Russia pretends us to believe — it’s a fully-fledged invasion with bombing, with killing of civilians, with confrontations among two armies,” he told reporters. “This is the worst thing that has happened in Europe, if I may say, since the end of the Cold War, and nobody knows what’s happening afterwards. Nobody knows which are the real intention of Putin.”

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Feb 25, 2:24 pm
Russia restricts Facebook

Russia is restricting its use of Facebook, according to its parent company, Meta.

Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs at Meta, said in a statement Friday, “Yesterday, Russian authorities ordered us to stop the independent fact-checking and labelling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media organizations. We refused. As a result, they have announced they will be restricting the use of our services.”

“Ordinary Russians are using our apps to express themselves and organize for action,” he continued. “We want them to continue to make their voices heard.”

Feb 25, 2:19 pm
Czech Republic, Poland ban Russian carriers from airspace

Poland and the Czech Republic said Friday they are banning Russian carriers from their airspace.

The United Kingdom on Thursday suspended the foreign carrier permit held by Russian airline Aeroflot.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Feb 25, 1:40 pm
Zelenskyy says, ‘We are all here’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has posted a selfie-style video showing himself standing outside the president’s office in central Kyiv Friday night along his defense minister, prime minister and parliamentary leader.

Zelenskyy, in combat fatigues, said to the camera that Ukraine’s army is there and will win.

“We are all here. Our military are here, as are our people and whole society. We’re all here defending our independence and our country. And we’ll go on doing that,” he said.

President Joe Biden held a secure call with Zelenskyy on Friday, according to a White House official.

Feb 25, 1:32 pm
NATO allies must stand ready to do more, NATO SG says

Russia is demanding legally binding agreements to remove troops and infrastructure from NATO allies that joined after 1997, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.

In addition to the significant sanctions imposed against Russia, NATO allies must stand ready to do more, Stoltenberg said, even if it means “we have to pay a price — because we are in this for the long haul.”

The U.S., Canada and European allies have deployed thousands of more troops to the eastern part of the alliance, Stolentenberg said. Over 100 jets and more than 120 ships are operating on high alert in more than 30 locations, he said.

Feb 25, 1:16 pm
UK’s Boris Johnson announces Putin, Lavrov sanctions

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson will introduce sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on top of the sanctions package announced Thursday, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The announcement was made during a Friday call with NATO leaders.

“The Prime Minister told the group that a catastrophe was engulfing Ukraine, and President Putin was engaging in a revanchist mission to over-turn post-Cold War order. He warned the group that the Russian President’s ambitions might not stop there and that this was a Euro-Atlantic crisis with global consequences,” the Downing Street spokesperson said.

“The Prime Minister urged leaders to take immediate action against SWIFT to inflict maximum pain on President Putin and his regime,” the spokesperson added.

If Russia was cut off from the SWIFT — the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication international banking system — it would significantly hinder Russia’s participation in global markets.

Feb 25, 12:55 pm
Russia deploying disinformation campaign to damage Ukraine’s morale: US official

A U.S. official alleges that Russia is deploying a disinformation campaign to damage Ukrainians’ morale through false reports about Ukrainian troops surrendering or through planned threats to kill the family members of Ukraine’s military troops.

“We commend the Ukrainian people for showing strength and determination in response to an unprovoked attack by a significantly larger military,” the official said. “We are concerned, however, that Russia plans to discourage them and induce surrender through disinformation.”

Earlier Friday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed that more than 150 Ukrainian service members “laid down their arms and surrendered,” even providing names and figures for where they say these surrenders took place.

“After the stabilization of the situation in the combat area, all surrendered Ukrainian servicemen will be released home,” the Ministry of Defense said.

Feb 25, 12:41 pm
NATO activates NATO Response Force

NATO has activated its NATO Response Force, marking the first time the alliance has activated the potentially 40,000-person force for “a deterrence and defence” role, according to a NATO spokesperson. This means that the 8,500 American troops put on heightened alert in late January for this mission could soon be ordered to Europe.

The decision follows a meeting of NATO ministers Friday morning in Brussels.

To be activated, the 30 members of NATO must all agree to activate the force, which is under the command of Gen. Told Wolters, the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

Feb 25, 12:19 pm
Over 50,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled

More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled their country in less than 48 hours, mostly to Poland and Moldova, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees tweeted.

The U.S. is coordinating with its European allies and partners who will be on the front lines receiving refugees, a spokesperson for the State Department told ABC News. That includes diplomatic engagements “to ensure neighboring countries keep their borders open to those seeking international protection,” the spokesperson said.

Feb 25, 11:54 am
Russians planning multiple simultaneous entrance points into Kyiv: Official

Officials are seeing more signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t interested in a diplomatic solution, a senior U.S. official said.

Russian troops are now resupplied and are planning multiple entrance points into Kyiv that will likely be carried out at once, the official said.

Feb 25, 11:34 am
Chernobyl seeing slightly higher levels of radiation but no threat

After Russian forces seized the area around the Chernobyl nuclear power station, the facilities continue “to operate safely and securely,” Ukraine’s regulatory agency informed the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. Nuclear watchdog said Friday.

There were slightly higher levels of radiation, but they are still “low and remain within the operational range measured in the Exclusion Zone since it was established, and therefore do not pose any danger to the public,” the IAEA said.

One theory why the levels could have ticked up, according to the IAEA, is “heavy military vehicles stirring up soil still contaminated from the 1986 accident.”

The Chernobyl power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, is located about 60 miles north of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. The Chernobyl exclusion zone begins almost immediately below Ukraine’s border with Belarus.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Friday that Russian troops took full control of the Chernobyl plant area on Thursday.

Feb 25, 11:14 am
Russians going ashore in ‘amphibious assault’

A senior defense official confirms that there is a Russian “amphibious assault” underway along the Ukrainian coast from the Sea of Azov. The attack is to the west of Mariupol, which is a coastal city in southeastern Ukraine.

“Indications are right now that they are putting potentially thousands of naval infantry ashore there,” the official said.

The push toward Kyiv is going slower than the Russians expected as they’re meeting more resistance from Ukrainians than they thought, the official said.

“In general the Russians have lost a little bit of their momentum,” the official said.

The official pointed out that no population centers have been taken and the Russians do not have air superiority over Ukraine as Ukrainian air defenses are still working.

The official said more than 200 ballistic and cruise missiles have been fired at targets in Ukraine, adding some have “impacted civilian residential areas.”

The U.S. assesses that “a third of the combat power ” of the 150,000 Russian troops that were amassed on the border are actually dedicated to the fighting in Ukraine, according to the official.

“They have not they have not committed the majority of their forces inside Ukraine,” the official said.

Fighting is also underway at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant and dam on the Dnieper River that controls a lot of electrical power to Crimea and southern Ukraine, the official said, adding that there have been cyberattacks against power plants.

Feb 25, 10:31 am
EU moving toward sanctioning Putin, Lavrov: Top diplomat

The European Union is moving toward sanctioning Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Russia’s war against Ukraine, the EU’s top diplomat confirmed.

But the decision has not been made and requires unanimous approval by the 27 member states, diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters Friday.

“If there is no surprises and nobody objects — because we require unanimity — yes, Putin and Lavrov will be on the list,” Borrell said.

He said even these EU sanctions on Putin and Lavrov would “certainly” not be enough.

“We are facing a full-fledged invasion of a country by another. It’s not a special forces operations like Russia pretends us to believe — it’s a fully-fledged invasion with bombing, with killing of civilians, with confrontations among two armies,” he said. “This is the worst thing that has happened in Europe, if I may say, since the end of the Cold War, and nobody knows what’s happening afterwards. Nobody knows which are the real intention of Putin.”

Feb 25, 8:57 am
Russia may be reinforcing, resupplying before moving in on Kyiv

There was an eerie quietness across Kyiv on Friday afternoon, as Russian forces closed in on the Ukrainian capital.

A senior U.S. official told ABC News that he believes the pause around Kyiv was due to the Russian military reinforcing troops and resupplying ammunition and food, and that Russia still wants a stranglehold on the city over the next 24 to 48 hours.

The official also expressed great concern about civilian causalities if Russian forces do move in. While there appeared to be a renewed effort at diplomacy on Friday, the United States believes any noise Russia makes about negotiations is simply stalling, the official said.

-ABC News’ Martha Raddatz

Feb 25, 8:35 am
Kremlin claims Zelenskyy has agreed to discuss neutrality

Russia claimed Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has agreed to discuss neutrality for his country.

“Zelenskyy stated his readiness to discuss the neutral status of Ukraine,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a daily call. “From the beginning, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin spoke about how the goal of the operation to the [separatist regions], including a path to the demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine. But that is actually also an essential component of neutral status.”

Peskov added that Putin is prepared to send a delegation to neighboring Belarus to hold talks with Ukrainian officials in Minsk.

If the Kremlin’s claims are true, it would amount to Zelenskyy surrendering to Russia’s demand that Ukraine pledges to never join NATO.

Earlier Friday, Zelenskyy called on Putin to hold talks “to stop people dying.” But he did not mention neutral status.

The comments came as Russian troops reached the center of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and engaged in fighting with Ukrainian troops.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 8:35 am
Kremlin claims Zelenskyy has agreed to discuss neutrality

Russia claimed Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has agreed to discuss neutrality for his country.

“Zelenskyy stated his readiness to discuss the neutral status of Ukraine,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a daily call. “From the beginning, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin spoke about how the goal of the operation to the [separatist regions], including a path to the demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine. But that is actually also an essential component of neutral status.”

Peskov added that Putin is prepared to send a delegation to neighboring Belarus to hold talks with Ukrainian officials in Minsk.

If the Kremlin’s claims are true, it would amount to Zelenskyy surrendering to Russia’s demand that Ukraine pledges to never join NATO.

Earlier Friday, Zelenskyy called on Putin to hold talks “to stop people dying.” But he did not mention neutral status.

The comments came as Russian troops reached the center of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and engaged in fighting with Ukrainian troops.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 8:13 am
Russia claims to have blocked Kyiv from west

Russia claimed on Friday afternoon that its forces have blocked Kyiv from the west, which would begin a partial encirclement of the Ukrainian capital.

According to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense, Russian forces also have completely blocked the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, about 90 miles north of Kyiv, and now have full control of a key Ukrainian military airport in Hostomel, a town on the edge of the capital. Some 200 Russian helicopters were allegedly used in the attack on the airport.

While ABC News could not independently verify Russia’s claims, the Ukrainian military has acknowledged that it does not have full control of the airport in Hostomel.

The Russian Ministry of Defense alleged that Russian forces are “doing everything possible to prevent civilian casualties” and “will not deliver any strikes on residential areas of Kyiv.” However, fighting is already taking place in residential areas and Ukrainian authorities said homes have been bombed in and around Kyiv.

-ABC News’ Anastasia Bagaeva and Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 7:47 am
Zelenskyy warns Russian invasion is start of ‘war against all Europe’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold negotiations and cease the deadly attacks on his country.

“Fighting is ongoing all over Ukraine. Let’s sit at the table for negotiations to stop people dying,” Zelenskyy said in a televised address Friday afternoon.

But he did not order Ukrainian troops to stop defending their country, instead telling them: “Stand tough. You’re everything we have. You’re everything that is defending us.”

Zelenskyy criticized Europe’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it too slow and noting divisions. He also issued a dire warning to the rest of Europe.

“It’s not just Russian invasion in Ukraine, it’s the beginning of the war against all Europe, against its unity, all human rights, against all the rules of coexistence on the continent, against European countries’ refusal to change the borders by force,” he said.

-ABC News’ Julia Drozd and Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 7:15 am
UN refugee agency estimates 100,000 Ukrainians are displaced

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates some 100,000 Ukrainians have already been forced from their homes due to the ongoing Russian invasion, spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told ABC News on Friday.

Mantoo cautioned that the agency has not confirmed any exact numbers.

“But there clearly has been significant displacement inside the country and some movements towards and across the borders,” she said.

The news was first reported by AFP.

The United States is coordinating with its European allies and partners who will be on the front lines receiving refugees, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State told ABC News. That includes diplomatic engagements “to ensure neighboring countries keep their borders open to those seeking international protection,” the spokesperson said.

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Feb 25, 6:42 am
Russia says negotiations will begin after ‘democratic order’ restored

Russia will begin negotiations again once “democratic order” is restored in Ukraine, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said Friday, amid an ongoing invasion of the neighboring country.

“We are ready for negotiations, at any moment, as soon as the Armed Forces of Ukraine respond to the call of our president to cease resistance and lay down their arms. No one intends to attack them,” Lavrov said during a televised meeting in Moscow with pro-Russian separatist leaders from eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov’s comments come as Russian forces attacked Ukrainian troops in Kyiv on Friday morning, as the fighting drew closer to the capital’s city center.

-ABC News’ Anastasia Bagaeva and Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 6:03 am
Russia claims to have disabled 118 Ukrainian military facilities

Russia claimed Friday that its forces have so far disabled 118 elements of Ukraine’s military infrastructure.

“These include 11 military airfields and 13 command and communication posts of the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

Konashenkov also alleged that more than 150 Ukrainian soldiers have “laid down their arms and surrendered during the fighting.”

-ABC News’ Anastasia Bagaeva

Feb 25, 5:43 am
Gunfire, explosions heard within Kyiv as fighting draws near

ABC News’ team in Kyiv saw a large explosion and heard intense gunfire in the distance early Friday afternoon.

The crackles of gunfire appeared to be several miles north of the center of the Ukrainian capital, but still well within the city limits.

Ukrainian authorities have told residents in the northern suburb of Obolon to take shelter and prepare for imminent military action. The area is a 10-minute drive from Kyiv’s center.

The capital remains on edge as Russian forces draw near. Earlier, Ukrainian troops were seen hurriedly moving with ammunition to set up positions in the city center as air-raid sirens rang out.

Thousands of people have tried to leave Kyiv and head west to the Polish border, with some spending hours stuck in long traffic jams.

The Ukrainian military said it has distributed 18,000 assault rifles to territorial defense volunteers in the capital. It has also begun handing out weapons to civilians who want to fight and has called on healthy men over the age 60 to join the defense force, if they wish.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Feb 25, 5:11 am
Ukrainian military claims to have killed Russian saboteurs in Kyiv

Ukraine’s military claimed Friday to have killed an advance group of Russian saboteurs disguised as Ukrainian soldiers during a gunfight in the capital, Kyiv.

The Ukrainian military released video purportedly showing the bodies of men in Ukrainian uniforms and a destroyed truck. The fighting allegedly happened in an area only 10 minutes north of the city center.

Russian forces that crossed into Ukraine from the north on Thursday have been trying to advance south toward Kyiv. Fighting was taking place near a town 20 miles north of the entrance to the capital on Friday morning, ABC News has learned.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

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