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March 20, 2023 - Xi and Putin meet in Moscow as Russia's war in Ukraine continues
By Kathleen Magramo, Eliza Mackintosh, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Leinz Vales and Elise Hammond, CNN
Russian cruise missiles destroyed in strike on train in Crimea, Ukraine Defense Ministry says
From CNN's Josh Pennington, Tatiana Arias, Elise Garofalo and Sarah Dean
Ukraine's Ministry of Defense said late Monday night that a strike hit and destroyed Russian Kalibr cruise missiles – while they were being transported by train –in the town of Dzhankoi in the north of Russian-occupied Crimea.
The strike serves to further "demilitarize Russia and prepare the Crimean peninsula for de-occupation," Ukrainian authorities said.
Meanwhile, the Russian-installed head of the annexed peninsula confirmed there was a strike and that the air defense system in Dzhankoi was activated. One person was injured and two buildings were damaged in the strike, Sergei Askyonov said.
The Russian-installed head of the annexed peninsula confirmed there was a strike and that the air defense system was activated. One person was injured and two buildings were damaged, Sergei Askyonov said.
Amateur video geolocated by CNN shows a large explosion and resulting fireball. An individual is heard saying off-camera that the strike hit the train station. However, the video did not clearly show what had been hit, and CNN hasn't been able to confirm the exact location of the strike.
Some background: "Dzhankoi and Gvardeyskoye are home to two of the most important Russian military airfields in Crimea," the UK Ministry of Defense said in 2022. "Dzhankoi is also a key road and rail junction that plays an important role in supplying Russia’s operations in southern Ukraine," it said.
Chinese president conveys willingness to help find a "political solution" to war in Ukraine, readout says
From CNN's Beijing Bureau
China’s leader Xi Jinping underlined the country's willingness to play a role in finding a political solution to Russia's war in Ukraine, according to a readout of the meeting Xi had with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday. The meeting marked the first of a three-day visit to Russia.
The readout, as published by Chinese state news agency Xinhua, said China and Russia "shared similar goals" and Xi and Putin “exchanged in-depth views on the Ukraine issue" during their conversation.
Xi emphasized that "voices of peace and reason are constantly gathering, and the majority of countries support easing tensions, advocating reconciliation and talks, and oppose fueling the fire," according to the readout.
It also said “conflicts eventually need to be resolved through dialogue and negotiation,” reminding that China had recently issued a paper calling for a political solution to end the conflict, which the readout refers to as the “Ukrainian crisis.”
The readout added that China’s proposal on a political solution "opposes Cold War mentality, and opposes unilateral sanctions" and it is “willing to continue to play a constructive role in promoting a political solution to the Ukraine issue."
China’s readout said Putin appreciated China’s “fair, objective and balanced position” on international issues and that Russia "holds an open attitude towards peace talks, and welcomes China’s constructive role in that regard.”
Xi holds talks in Moscow while US is skeptical about any ceasefire proposal. Here's the latest news
From CNN staff
Chinese leader Xi Jinping began a three-day visit to Moscow on Monday, his first since President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Talks between the two leaders lasted more than four hours and the leaders are expected to continue more formal meetings Tuesday.
Here are the latest headlines:
Moscow meeting: During the meeting, Xi told Putin that China and Russia have "similar goals" and he expressed support for Putin to be reelected. US officials, for their part, were paying close attention to the talks. John Kirby, the National Security Council communications coordinator, said the US remains concerned that Xi would reiterate calls for a ceasefire in Ukraine that would only benefit Moscow by allowing Russian forces to remain inside Ukrainian territory.
Tanks delivered: Norway delivered eight Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the Norwegian Armed Forces announced. Training for Ukrainian soldiers on the tanks is underway in Poland. Last month, Norway announced its decision to send the German-manufactured tanks, with Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre noting “several allied countries have also done the same.” At the beginning of February, the Norwegian government also announced it had decided to order 54 German Leopard 2 tanks to strengthen its own defense capabilities which were expected to be delivered in 2026.
Ammunition and aid for Ukraine: Eighteen European nations have agreed to jointly procure ammunition to “aid Ukraine and replenish national stockpiles,” the European Defence Agency said in a news release on Monday. The Biden administration also authorized an additional $350 million in security aid, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced. The Presidential Drawdown includes “more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS and howitzers that Ukraine is using to defend itself, as well as ammunition for Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, HARM missiles, anti-tank weapons, riverine boats, and other equipment,” Blinken said in a statement.
For perspective: The US has committed more than $32 billion in Presidential Drawdown funds to aid Ukraine since Russia's invasion began more than one year ago.
Latest on Bakhmut: The chief of Russia's Wagner private military group Yevgeny Prigozhin said Monday in an open letter to the Russian defense minister that the mercenary force controls around 70% of Bakhmut. A months-long battle continues in the eastern city and earlier this month, Prigozhin acknowledged that the situation was “difficult, very difficult, with the enemy fighting each other for each meter.”
- Justice ministers from around the world met in London to discuss ramping up support for the International Criminal Court’s efforts to investigate alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
- Dr. Karen Donfried, the top State Department official for Europe who has been a key player in the Biden administration’s approach to the Ukraine war is departing her post, Blinken announced on Monday.
Zelensky says EU’s ammunition plan gives Ukraine "confidence in our unity"
From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said EU plans to accelerate the supply of ammunition to Ukraine gives him "confidence in our unity."
“This decision is worth 2 billion euros. It provides for both immediate delivery and production of ammunition. This is a strategic move,” he said in his nightly address on Monday.
“It gives us confidence in our unity, in the immutability of the progress towards victory over the terrorist state. I am grateful to all our partners in Europe. To all those who are truly committed to making Europe strong and free," he added.
More on this: Earlier today, Estonia’s Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said that following a meeting in Brussels, European Union member states agreed on the joint procurement of one million rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition for Ukraine. Seventeen EU member states and Norway agreed to jointly procure ammunition to “aid Ukraine and replenish national stockpiles,” the European Defence Agency (EDA) explained later in a news release.
In his nightly address, Zelensky also reiterated his thanks to the United States for its latest military aid package announcement. He called the $350 million package “all that is truly necessary to support our soldiers”.
White House maintains a skeptical view of Xi-Putin meeting, official says
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
The White House maintained its skeptical view of this week’s summit between Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, suggesting there was little evidence the talks could yield positive developments for Ukraine.
John Kirby, the National Security Council communications coordinator, told reporters the US remains concerned that Xi would reiterate calls for a ceasefire in Ukraine that would only benefit Russia by allowing Russian forces to remain inside Ukrainian territory.
He said there wasn’t evidence yet that Beijing was moving forward with providing Moscow with weapons, but he said the option hasn’t been taken off the table.
“We'll see what they come out of this meeting talking about. I mean, we don't know if there's going to be some sort of arrangement, I would just tell you that we still don't believe that China is taking it off the table,” he said.
He told CNN’s Phil Mattingly the US views Russia as China’s “junior partner.”
A prospective phone call between Xi and President Biden remains in the cards, but will only occur at the “most appropriate time,” Kirby said.
In the meantime, the administration still hopes for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Beijing and is working on arranging economic visits by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to China.
Biden wants to have another conversation with Xi Jinping, White House official says
US President Joe Biden is interested in talking again with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, according to John Kirby, the National Security Council strategic communications coordinator.
Xi is currently in Moscow on a three-day visit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Nothing has been scheduled between the US and Chinese leaders yet, Kirby said. US officials want to make sure “it's at the appropriate time,” he added.
"It's important that we keep those lines of communication open, particularly now, when tensions are so high," he said.
Biden met with Xi for three hours in November on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali. It was their first in-person encounter since Biden took office. At the time, the president told reporters he was “open and candid” with Xi about the range of matters where Beijing and Washington disagree.
Kirby also said the US wants to reschedule Secretary of State Blinken's visit to Beijing. It was postponed in February in response to the flying of a suspected Chinese spy balloon.
Blinken intends to travel to China "at the earliest opportunity when conditions allow," a State Department official said last month, though the official did not elaborate on what conditions the US is watching for.
Kirby also said the US is having "active discussions" with China about Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo visiting the country.
Zelensky hails Biden administration's latest security assistance for Ukraine
From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv
President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday thanked President Joe Biden “and the American people” after the US administration authorized an additional $350 million in security aid for Ukraine.
“HIMARS rockets, 155mm shells, HARM missiles & other items worth $350 million are a great contribution to repelling the invaders,” Zelensky tweeted.
Some more on this: On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the Biden administration has authorized an additional $350 million in security aid for Ukraine.
The aid includes “more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS and howitzers that Ukraine is using to defend itself, as well as ammunition for Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, HARM missiles, anti-tank weapons, riverine boats, and other equipment,” Blinken said.
Drawdown packages are pulled directly from US weapons stocks and can be shipped quickly to Ukraine.
Blinken on Monday reiterated that the US will stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
Ukrainian intelligence official says there is currently no evidence of China supplying weapons to Russia
From CNN's Maria Kostenko in Kyiv
There is currently no evidence that China is supplying weapons to Russia, a Ukrainian intelligence official said Monday.
"There are cases when (President Vladimir) Putin’s regime, the Russian Federation, purchases drones, civilian goods from open sources and uses microchips from those goods. However, no evidence of arms deliveries have been recorded. Ukraine is monitoring closely," Andriy Yusov, a representative of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, told national television.
Yusov spoke as Putin was hosting Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a three-day visit to Moscow.
Western leaders have expressed skepticism about China’s potential role as a peacemaker and its claimed neutrality.
The United States and its allies have also been warning that China is considering sending lethal aid to Russia for its war effort, which Beijing has denied.