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Ukrainian President Speaks Amid Russian Invasion; Troop, Military Vehicles Enter Ukraine from Belarus; Ukraine Hit by Wave of Cyberattacks as Invasion Begins. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 24, 2022 - 04:30   ET



VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I am grateful to all our politicians who supported Ukraine and who stand in defense of our independence. We don't have political opponents now. We are all citizens of a wonderful country and we are -- stand in defense of our freedom. Be ready to support your state in the squares of your cities. We will remove sanctions on any citizen of Ukraine. The security council of Ukraine has decided to remove sanctions from anyone who has been able to take up arms in defense of our country as part of territorial defense.

This morning, dear citizens, this morning has gone down in history but it is a different history for us and for Russia. We have severed diplomatic relations with Russia. Ukraine is defending itself and shall not cede its freedom whatever they might think in Moscow, to Ukrainians, independence and the right to live on our land is the highest value.

Russia has attacked our state in a cunning way, in a way that Nazi Germany did during the second world war. From today our countries are on opposing sides of world history. Russia is on the path of evil but much depends on the Russian people. The people of Russia will have to choose which path each of them takes. Anyone in Russia who has not lost their honor, they have time to come out and protest against this war, against a war on Ukraine.

And I would like to appeal separately both to the citizens of Ukraine in Russian also to Russians. I know that this is not being shown on your TV channels and much is blocked in the social media, but this evil, this desire to eliminate a nation is impossible to block. You cannot block history. Therefore, dear citizens of Ukraine, our strong citizens of Ukraine, anyone who has relatives in Russia, I'm sure you do. Those who have friends, that know journalists, bloggers in Russia, please appeal to them. They must always talk about this. And then Russia will know the truth. It is important.

Thank you. We will update you every hour. We will talk to you every hour with our population, with our public, for now on this is our multi-million army. Glory to Ukraine.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Now there you go. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy there with an emotional address. Just a couple of things he said. First of all, he announced he had severed diplomatic relations with Russia saying that Russia is on the path of evil. He is calling on ordinary Russian citizens to come out and protest in Russia about this war. And he acknowledged that most Russians probably aren't seeing what you watching us here are seeing. And said that Ukrainians who had relatives and friends in Russia should reach out to them directly and ask them to protest and spread the word about what coming.

He said the enemy had sustained heavy casualties, he called for blood donations. And this is interesting too. He said authorities will be issuing weapons to those capable of defending the country and in fact asked for people who are capable of carrying weapons and defending the country to go to stations to be issued with weapons.

Let's go now to our Nick Paton Walsh in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. Nick, I know you were listening to this. Striking, basically calling on people to get out and get armed and go fight.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, calling people to fight in the squares of the towns in which they live. I mean, to some degree a call for unity, also possibly a sign of some sense of desperation of what may lie ahead. Much of the analysis of what Russia's military may do here and give the Ukrainian military less of a chance.


But it will face a population that is bitterly angry at their presence. And that possibly is what Ukraine's president is trying to harness.

I should point out one thing, Michael, that we heard in the last half an hour here or so. I'm sorry, in the last 10 minutes. Another explosion on the horizon over here. I think we'll be able to play for you the sound of that. Let me just be quiet while that happens. This was a substantial blast we think on the other side of the bay year. There is quite a bit of Ukrainian military hardware along this edge of the Black Sea. We know that there are, according to U.S. officials, possibly two dozen Russian warships out there.

Unclear what caused explosion. Unclear whether this was a jet or something else. But it was pretty substantial ricocheted across here. And it came about ten minutes after we heard the loudest, closest explosion we've heard here in Odessa since we got here. Since we've woken up at 5:00 this morning by the first blasts.

That explosion set off a car alarm near us. Varying reports as to what may have been targeted. No clarity from the officials here. But this gives a sign as to how widespread this offensive is going to be. The challenge that President Zelensky is facing, the fact that I'm standing in a pro -- in a Russian speaking port city. It is essentially Ukraine's gateway to the maritime world, vital to its economy. Its third largest city, but it appears to be partially in Russian crosshairs here.

We don't know if what they're doing at this point if these explosions are indeed related to the Russian invasions. It seems far-fetched that they would not be. That they're trying to maybe isolate this. There's been suggestions from Western officials that an amphibious landing here might be something that might be attempted. It would seem crazy, frankly, to try to do that in this sort of town. But crazy is the watch word of the day sadly.

So, this consistent series of blasts, I mean, intermittent as they've been since 5:00 this morning is troubling because we are so far away from those temperatures, territories that Vladimir Putin said the special operation was about trying to protect. I'm going to make it absolutely clear, that there's a much wider mission afoot here for Russia.

HOLMES: Absolutely. Yes, great reporting. Thank you, Nick. Nick Paton Walsh there in the key strategic port city of Odessa. Appreciate it. We'll have much more from Ukraine coming up. But first, let's go to Isa Soares in London. Over to you, my friend.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Michael. Of course, we are following global market reaction at this hour. European markets are open and they are tumbling. We'll bring you the Dow futures and all of the market news after a very short break. You are watching breaking news coverage right here on CNN.



SOARES: More now on the breaking news out of Ukraine where a Russian attack is underway. The Ukrainian defense ministry says Russia has launched an attack on multiple fronts and explosions have been reported in several cities including near Kyiv. This exclusive video shows military vehicles, you can see there, entering Ukraine from Belarus where Russia has been conducting military drills.

The Belarusian president says his troops are not taking part in the Russian operation. Now to the south, Russian troops have been seen entering the country from Crimea. And while the crisis escalates on the ground, over Ukraine the air space remains empty -- as you can see on your screen. Aviation authorities have restricted the countries airspace. A move that caused an Air India flight traveling to evacuate Indian nationals to turn around midflight.

Russia also issued a notice banning several aircraft from flight routes along Ukraine's border.

Well, European markets have been open just about two hours and trading sharply lower given Russians attacking on Ukraine. Have a look at the markets. The FTSE down just over 2 and almost 2.5 percent. Xetra DAX seeing some of its biggest FALLS there over 3 -- over 3.5 percent. Earlier we saw the French CAC dropping around 4 percent. Not very far from that.

U.S. futures taking a sharp turn as well as the tensions escalate as we see what's unfolding on the ground at Ukraine. The Dow fell almost 2 percent earlier, now with expectations of 1.5 percent. The very incredibly volatile given everything that is happening. And of course, this comes after a fifth straight day of losses for these U.S. indices.

On the oil front, oil prices surging earlier Thursday after blasts were heard in Ukraine. With Brent Crude briefly surpassing $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014. Now just over 103 Brent Crude, WTI at 98. U.S. oil also jumps as much as 6 percent. Now almost over 6.5 percent. We'll keep an eye on the markets.

Meanwhile, Russian stocks have plunged 45 percent as trading resumed on the Moscow stock exchange. Earlier trading had been suspended. The ruble has crashed on an all-time low against the dollar, as well as the euro.

And as Russian troops move into Ukraine, so does a wave of cyberattacks on Ukrainian websites. Research has said the latest one includes a data wiping tool that was found on hundreds of computers. It is still unclear though who is behind that. A series of cyberattacks also took down at least eight Ukrainian government websites. They include the foreign and justice ministry sites.

But a top U.S. Senator overseeing intelligence operations telling Axios the cyberattacks should go beyond Ukraine. Senator Mark Warner said it could also hit NATO countries and possibly trigger the activation of its collective defense pact

In the U.S., of course U.S. officials have warned banks and utilities to prepare for possible Russian cybercrimes. Businesses have also been told to watch for potential ransomware attacks while security and intelligence agencies have been preparing, of course, for potential hacking threats.

Let's get more on this. Were joined by James Sullivan. He's the director of cyber research RUSI and British defense and security think tank. He's speaking with us from here in London. Good morning to you. Thanks for joining us. This is deeply troubling, what's happening on the ground in Ukraine, but we're of course seeing another attack. An onslaught of cyberattacks that we've just outlined. What's your assessment of Putin's cyber tactics here? What's unfolding here?

JAMES SULLIVAN, CYBER RESEARCH DIRECTOR, RUSI: Good morning. Yes, and obviously this is a very sobering time for everyone. And before I focus in on the cyber element, I think we should go back and look at the history of this.


So, we've had disruptive and destructive cyberattacks by Russia in Ukraine since 2014. They've used there as a testing bed, as a playground. This has taken place from the Russian state, the Russian affiliates. And they've attacked the energy sector, the transport sector, finance, the electoral commission, consistent business disruption.

And really there's kind of three main things Russia's been doing here really. Intelligence gathering is very important. So, this benefits Russian foreign policy decisions. What we're going to see more of now I think as the events of the invasion stage our operations to disrupt and deceive the Ukrainian military and its partners. I think there's a finance element to this, which is really important. Which is the psychological element. These are psychological operations really peered When you take down the financial systems, you threaten power grids. You threaten soldiers on the grouped. And you really do undermine trust in infrastructure, in systems, that's the important factor to take into account as to why Russia conducts cyberattacks.

SOARES: And, James, I mean, you really give us some insight in how these cyberattacks translate to on the ground. You're talking about crippling infrastructure, potentially telecons and the like here.

SULLIVAN: Yes, so I think we have to be very careful with the hyperbole of cyber warfare and really play it down. Since I've said this is taking place since 2014, there's nothing new here. Russia is not going to install a new government in Ukraine through cyberattacks alone. There's not going to be one big cyberattack. What we're seeing here is the chipping away of -- they're death by 1,000 cuts really of consistent attacks. Lots of low-level attacks as well.

And I think this is really important. Because this has allowed Russia to have plausible viability. So, while we do attribute the attacks to Russia, we can't 100 percent prove that it's them. So, these low-level attacks, chipping away at the confidence of infrastructure. And we saw this yesterday with the d-dos attacks on the Ukrainian government departments that you mentioned at the top, followed by actually what you look at. If you look under the hood at the end, what you see is they used Wiper, that's what they wiped files.

Now there's a question about how much operational impact did this have really on their military campaign? Perhaps very little. But what it does do, as I said, it undermined that trust and that's really important when you're wagging war.

SOARES: Absolutely. Very important on the ground right now. Give me a sense, James, of what we could -- you know, the ricochet here, the impact here for other NATO allies, including the United States. What measures should they be putting in place and thinking about if this escalates on the cyber front?

SULLIVAN: Right. So, this is really important. The U.S. and U.K. have released in the past few weeks a lots of advisories to businesses, government departments to protect themselves against cyberattack. And I think the reason why this is the case is there's a worry of unintended consequences. And we've seen this before with a not structure attack where a lot of Ukrainian infrastructure will be part of a complex global supply chains. So, when you attack a Ukrainian system, it can spill over. We saw this with shipping company.

So, while there's no specific threat that's been identified for Western businesses, those unintended consequences of a cyberattack are clear. So, onto the solutions really. So, what we're talking about here are basic cybersecurity methods. You could argue it's a bit too late to be talking about it 24 hours after the invasion. But we're talking about protecting critical assets. Having backups and recovery. Segmenting IT and operational technology, patching regularly, using two factor authentication. Understanding the threat. Good incident response. So, with all those basic cybersecurity measures that governments have been going on about for 5 to 10 years, they apply now more than ever.

SOARES: James Sullivan, thank you very much. I appreciate your perspective on this. It's a story of course we should be following closely on the cyber front as we closely monitor the Russian invasion. A reminder of course Ukraine has people all the world are worried about you and support you. These images from Paris and Berlin donning the colors of the Ukrainian flag. We are back live in Ukraine with our Michael Holmes next.



HOLMES: Hello to everyone I Michael Holmes live in Lviv, Ukraine. Continuing our breaking news coverage of Russia's attack on Ukraine. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia has not just started a war against Ukraine but also against the entire democratic world. The assault began with shelling near Kyiv and Kharkiv. These are plumes of smoke from Boryspil which is near the capital where the main international airport is located.

The U.S. President Joe Biden swiftly condemning the attack as unprovoked and unjustified. He's set to lay out additional consequences for Moscow in the hours ahead. Mr. Biden will also take part in a meeting with G-7 leaders to discuss the crisis.

Meanwhile, landmarks in the French and German capitals are awash in Ukraine's national colors last night to show unity with Kyiv. Berlin's Brandenburg Gate was lit up blue and yellow amidst the ongoing crisis between Ukraine and Russia.

Officials calling a clear sign of support for a free and sovereign Ukraine. Paris's city hall also globed the same colors. French and German authorities coordinating the displays. A statement from Paris saying they mark the quote, necessary solidarity and unity that Europe must show in this conflict.

And before we go, I want to remind you who this invasion will impact. Normal people like you and I simply going about their daily lives in an independent democratic nation now caught up in the throngs of war. CNN's Clarissa Ward caught this fragile moment of peace, solidarity and prayer on the streets of Kharkiv in Ukraine.



CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A small group of people have gathered in the main square and they are kneeling and praying. Because right now there is truly a sense of having no idea what is coming down the pipeline, what is in store for the people of Ukraine in the coming hours, in the coming days. And it's freezing cold here. So, to see these people kneeling on the cold stone in prayer is

honestly -- it's very moving and I think it speaks to the state of ordinary Ukrainians here who have done absolutely nothing to deserve this, who have no quarrel with Russia. Who have no desire for war or conflict. Who are not engaged with the geopolitics underpinning all of this and yet who will ultimately be the ones to bear the brunt of as what Matthew called it, this multi-pronged major attack by one of the world's most sophisticated militaries on a sovereign, independent nation.


HOLMES: CNN's Clarissa Ward reporting there from Kharkiv earlier. And a glimpse that the sense of fear gripping Ukraine this morning.

I'm Michael Holmes in Lviv, Ukraine. Our breaking news coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues on "NEW DAY" with Brianna Keilar and John Berman. You're watching CNN.