March 22, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Joshua Berlinger, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond and Tori Powell, CNN

Updated 12:44 a.m. ET, March 23, 2023
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9:27 p.m. ET, March 21, 2023

White House rejects China's claim of impartiality in Ukraine war following Xi-Putin summit

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The White House rejected China’s claim to hold an impartial position in the war in Ukraine following a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Moscow.

“I don't think you can reasonably look at China as impartial in any way,” said John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman.

Earlier, Xi said Beijing held an impartial position in the war after lengthy talks with Putin in Moscow.

The United States held a skeptical view of the summit, particularly China’s stated goal of acting as a peacemaker. Kirby said if China wanted to play a constructive role, it would use its influence to urge Russia to end the war.

Biden “wants to keep the lines of communication open with China” and will speak with Xi “at the appropriate time,” Kirby said.

US officials are still digesting the language of the joint statement released following the Xi-Putin meeting, but Kirby said there was little optimism at the summit’s conclusions.

“We haven't seen anything that they've said, they put forward, that gives us hope that this war is going to end anytime soon,” he said.

11:21 p.m. ET, March 21, 2023

Catch up on what happened on day 2 of talks between Xi and Putin in Moscow

From CNN staff

Talks between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin continued Tuesday as Western leaders closely monitored day two of Xi's three-day Moscow visit.

Here's what happened Tuesday:

  • The China-Russia partnership: Putin called Xi a "friend" who he is "in constant contact" with and described all discussions in the Moscow meetings as "successful." Xi said he has built a "close relationship" with Putin over the past decade. The visit is a show of unity that has heightened Western concerns Beijing will provide cover for Russia's war in Ukraine.
  • What they said about Ukraine: Xi and Putin called for an end to actions that “increase tensions” and prolong the war, according to a readout released by Chinese state media. The two leaders also took part in a document-signing ceremony at the Kremlin, where they said the Ukraine crisis should be solved through peace talks, according to Chinese state media
  • A state dinner and a toast: To wrap up the second day of talks, Putin and Xi attended a state dinner. Putin gave a speech in which he toasted the health of Xi and the Chinese delegation, the “deepening of the Russian-Chinese partnership and strategic cooperation” and “the prosperity of the Russian and Chinese people.”
  • A likely aid request: NATO has "seen some signs" that Russia has likely requested lethal aid from China to bolster Moscow’s war in Ukraine, the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Tuesday. Xi's visit to Moscow signals the closer ties developing between China and Russia, he said.
  • Meanwhile, in Ukraine: The eastern city of Bakhmut remains the focus of Russia's attacks. Earlier this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN that Russian troops would have an "open road" to capture key cities in eastern Ukraine if they seized control of Bakhmut.
  • A faster timeline for US tanks and missiles: Patriot missile defense systems are set to be deployed to Ukraine faster than originally planned, and a group of 65 Ukrainian soldiers will complete their training on the systems at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in the coming days, US defense officials said on Tuesday. It comes as the US said it will accelerate shipments of Abrams tanks to Ukraine by sending older M1-A1 models of America's main battle tank instead of the more modern version, according to two US officials.
9:20 p.m. ET, March 21, 2023

Russian strike on Odesa region leaves 3 injured, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Maria Kostenko

Andriy Yermak, head of the Presidential Office in Ukraine, said three people were injured in a Russian missile attack on the Odesa region on Tuesday.

"Russians struck Odesa with four missiles. Kh-59, according to preliminary reports," Yermak posted on Telegram. "Two missiles have been intercepted by air defense. Two more hit the city, unfortunately."

He said a three-story building was damaged on the premises of a monastery.

Yurii Kruk, head of the Odesa district military administration said "the enemy" carried out a rocket strike in the region with SU-35 fighters launching missiles from the sea.

"Some rockets were intercepted thanks to our air defenses. However, there was a strike that resulted in partial damage to civilian building. There are wounded. No one was killed, according to preliminary reports," he said.

Unofficial social media reports indicate the missiles were aimed at an airfield in the region.

9:02 p.m. ET, March 21, 2023

ICC prosecutor says Russia treats children like "spoils of war"

From CNN's Hira Humayun

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said he believes Russia is treating children like “spoils of war."

Last week, the ICC announced arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian children's rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for their roles in allegedly illegally deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.

The Rome Statute of the Geneva Conventions makes it clear "you can’t deport civilians to a foreign country,” Khan said.

Moscow has rejected the warrants, with a foreign ministry spokesperson previously saying “Russia is not a member of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it."

“You must look after them," ICC prosecutor Khan said of Ukrainian children. "If they are not safe, you move them to a safe part of Ukraine. If that’s not possible, a neutral third country. And it seems to be not just deportation to Russian Federation, they’re met by strangers who now have suddenly become adopted parents. And the children are not property, they’re not the spoils of war.” 

The prosecutor said Russia does not seem to be denying the allegations against it but rather wearing it “like a badge of honor."

“Children are not the property of a country to be dispatched based on politics or some ideological motives. It needs to be regulated by law, and that law needs to be enforced,” Khan said. 

He said the ICC has reached out to Russia, but has not heard back.

8:59 p.m. ET, March 21, 2023

Russian forces are "running out of offensive potential" in fight for Bakhmut, Ukrainian officer says

From CNN's Maria Kostenko

A Ukrainian army major in the Bakhmut area says the situation remains extremely difficult, but he believes the Russians are losing their "offensive potential."

Maksym Zhorin said on his Telegram channel that "the main task for the Ukrainian army is to hold the connection corridor, which allows for the supply and evacuation of the wounded."

"Therefore the fighting around this corridor, in the area of Ivankivske and Bohdanivka, is the most difficult," he said.

The two villages sit on routes west from Bakhmut toward the city of Kostiantynivka.

"One thing I can say for sure is that the enemy is gradually running out of offensive potential," Zhorin said. "They have sustained significant losses while trying to advance in the south and in the north, as well as while trying to attack directly through urban areas. Nevertheless, the endless assault attempts continue.
"The Russians have a goal to take Bakhmut at any cost. We have orders to hold the line. We are following our orders."
8:51 p.m. ET, March 21, 2023

US to send Patriot missile systems and tanks to Ukraine faster than originally planned

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand and Haley Britzky

US Patriot missile defense systems and Abram tanks are set to be deployed to Ukraine faster than originally planned, US defense officials said on Tuesday.

A group of 65 Ukrainian soldiers will complete their training on the systems at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in the coming days, the defense officials said.

The troops will then move on to Europe for additional training on the two Patriot systems — one American and one built by the Germans and Dutch — that will be deployed to Ukraine in the coming weeks, the officials told reporters at Fort Sill.

The announcement of the acceleration of Patriot deployments came shortly after it was reported that the US will accelerate the time it takes to ship Abrams tanks to Ukraine by sending older M1-A1 models of America’s main battle tank instead of the more modern version of the tank, according to two US officials.

The decision to speed up the delivery of tanks and Patriots comes as Ukraine is preparing to launch a spring offensive against Russian forces, built largely around the more powerful and more advanced systems Western countries have agreed to send, including tanks and other armored vehicles.

Read more here.