March 15, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Eric Levenson, Meg Wagner, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Ben Church, Jeevan Ravindran, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya and Jason Kurtz, CNN

Updated 11:12 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022
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4:18 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Polish, Czech and Slovenian Prime Ministers to meet Zelensky in Kyiv today

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, James Frater and Alex Hardie

Leaders from three European countries will travel to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal on Tuesday, according to the Polish government.

In a statement Tuesday, the Polish Prime Minister's office said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša would visit the Ukrainian capital as representatives of the European Council.

“The visit is organized in consultation with the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen,” the statement said.
“The purpose of the visit is to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. The aim of this visit is also to present a broad package of support for Ukraine and Ukrainians."
3:17 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Two residential buildings hit by shelling in Kyiv 

From CNN’s Ivana Kottasová and Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

Firefighters work in an apartment building damaged by shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 15.
Firefighters work in an apartment building damaged by shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 15. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Two buildings in residential areas of Kyiv were hit by separate strikes early Tuesday morning, according to Ukrainian emergency services.  

A private home in Osokorky — a district east of the city center — was hit by shelling just before 6 a.m. local time Tuesday, the emergency services said in a statement.

A fire broke out in the two-story building but was put out shortly afterwards. No casualties were reported.  

Shortly after the strike in Osokorky, a 10-story apartment building in Podil — north of the city center — was hit in another strike, causing a fire in the first five floors of the building.

One person was taken to hospital, the emergency services said.  

2:21 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Japan sanctions 17 more Russians in response to Ukraine invasion

From CNN’s Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo 

Japan will freeze the assets of 17 more Russians, the country's Ministry of Finance said in a statement Tuesday.

Targets of the new sanctions include Russian billionaire Yuri Kovalchuk’s family members, lawmakers from Russia’s Parliament and Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, according to the ministry.

The latest move brings the total number of Russians targeted by Japan's asset freezes to 61.

2:21 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Analysis: Here's how we know sanctions are hurting Russia

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

With much of the world economy repudiating Russia after President Vladimir Putin's invaders stormed into Ukraine, the country is on the cusp of a default on its foreign obligations.

The West's economic blockade and sanctions of an unprecedented scale are clearly having an effect.

Needing help: Russia has sought economic and military help from China, which has stayed notably aloof during the Ukraine invasion, according to conversations CNN had with two US officials. It's not clear whether China intends to provide Russia with that assistance, and both countries denied that Russia had made the request.

Here, have rubles: Russia is threatening to repay foreign creditors from "countries that are unfriendly" in badly devalued rubles, according to a report from CNN's Charles Riley. Either nonpayment or payment in rubles for more than $117 million in interest payments on dollar-denominated government bonds due Wednesday would mean Russia had defaulted on its debt.

Potentially seizing what remains: Separately, Moscow is threatening the growing list of companies pulling out of Russia, saying their assets could be seized by the state. The Russian Embassy in the US on Sunday dismissed reports Moscow could seize assets of Western companies as "pure fiction."

The only way this really ends: The question will ultimately be whether Russians are willing to accept their new status as global pariahs and give up the Western comforts some had grown used to. Putin is obviously willing to accept these things.

Read the full analysis:

1:23 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

NASA says American aboard International Space Station will come back on Russian rocket "for sure"

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

NASA said Monday that NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei will return from the International Space Station later this month aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft as previously planned.

The space agency sought to reaffirm Monday that it's still working closely with Russian space agency Rocosmos on the International Space Station, despite mounting geopolitical tensions.

Vande Hei, who launched to the ISS in April 2021, is slated to make his return trip on March 30.

He'll land aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan, as is customary. NASA officials did not say there would be any significant changes to plans to get Vande Hei back to the United States after he lands.

Joint operations between NASA and Roscosmos at the Russian facilities at Baikonur, Kazakhstan "continue to go well," Joel Montalbano, the manager of NASA's International Space Station program, said, "I can tell you for sure Mark [Vande Hei] is coming home" on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Some context: For nearly a decade, Russia's Soyuz vehicles had been the only means of getting astronauts to and from the space station.

It comes after Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin made several fiery social media posts directed at the US, including a heavily edited, partially animated video that appeared to threaten that Russian astronauts would abandon Vande Hei in space. 

Read the full story:

12:09 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Analysis: Putin's inhumanity sharpens Biden's historic dilemma

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

President Joe Biden's choices and challenges on Ukraine were already extremely tough. As the war's horror mounts, they are about to get even more excruciating.

Since Russia launched its onslaught last month, Biden has sought to punish and isolate President Vladimir Putin and to mitigate the slaughter of civilians by providing defensive weapons to the Kyiv government. But he's also calibrated his actions to avoid being dragged into a dangerous direct conflict with nuclear-armed Russia while finessing his own delicate political situation at home.

As Putin escalates his assault, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gets more desperate and the civilian toll becomes more appalling by the day, Biden's balancing act becomes much harder.

The political heat on the President, after a period of unusual unity in Washington, is also about to rise. That will especially be the case if, as appears increasingly likely, the rest of the world is forced to watch an inhumane Russian siege and bombardment of Kyiv.

In a big Washington moment on Wednesday, Zelensky will deliver a virtual address to Congress. If his recent speech to the UK parliament, which drew Churchillian comparisons, is any guide, it will be a searing and inspiring rallying cry for lawmakers. If the Ukrainian President includes last-ditch pleas for fighter jets and a no-fly zone over his country, which Biden scotched on the grounds they could trigger war with Moscow, he will create extreme domestic pressure on the President.

Biden's problem is that after unleashing full-bore economic warfare on Russia with extraordinarily tough sanctions, there are now limits to the steps he can take to significantly turn up pressure on Putin without risking a direct military or cyber conflict. Some of the President's critics in Congress and in parts of the foreign policy establishment, including in his own party, argue that he's been too cautious.

Read the full analysis:

12:07 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Explosions heard from central Kyiv 

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv 

Two very loud explosions were heard from central Kyiv around 5 a.m. local time Tuesday, according to CNN's team on the ground in the Ukrainian capital.

12:00 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

It's 6 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

There were heavy explosions in Kyiv Monday and an apartment block in one of the city's suburbs was hit with a deadly strike. In the besieged city of Mariupol, more than 2,500 civilians have died, Ukrainian officials estimate, and those who remain are without electricity, water and heat.

Meanwhile, a fourth round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators were put on "pause" until Tuesday, according to Ukraine's negotiator who noted that "negotiations continue."

Here's the latest on Russia's invasion of Ukraine:

  • US cables raise questions on China: The US has information suggesting China has expressed some openness to providing Russia with requested military and financial assistance, a Western official and a US diplomat told CNN. But it is not yet clear whether China intends to provide Russia with help. China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, told US officials Beijing regrets the war in Ukraine but will not stand for any attempts to "smear" China over its position. The US has conveyed directly to China the potential negative outcomes of assisting Russia in its war with Ukraine. Among the assistance Russia requested was pre-packaged, non-perishable military food kits, known in the US as "meal, ready-to-eat," or MREs, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
  • Reporter injured: Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall, who had been deployed in recent weeks to cover the war in Ukraine, has been hospitalized after being injured while reporting near Kyiv, the network said Monday. Hall's injury comes one day after Brent Renaud, an award-winning American journalist, was killed in the Ukrainian city of Irpin.
  • NATO leaders meeting on the cards: The leaders of NATO could meet in person in Brussels as soon as next week for what would be an extraordinary meeting, according to a diplomatic source. Separately, this week’s meeting of NATO defense ministers is expected to focus on the alliance’s next steps to strengthen its defensive presence in eastern Europe in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russia "broadening" targets: A Russian attack on a Ukrainian military training facility near Lviv on Sunday is the third airstrike in western Ukraine, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said. With the latest strike, “it certainly appears as if the Russians are broadening their target set,” Kirby added. The Pentagon does not believe the strike was a sign that Russia was targeting the delivery of foreign security assistance to Ukraine. 
  • Russian protester: Maria Ovsyannikova, a Russia Channel One employee, held an anti-war sign to interrupt one of Russia's major state television broadcast news programs in prime time on Monday. "NO WAR. Stop the war. Do not believe propaganda they tell you lies here," the sign read. Ovsyannikova's lawyer later said he is unable to find his client, despite reports she is in a Moscow police station.
  • Assault on cities: One person died and six more were injured when an apartment building in Kyiv's Obolon district was hit Monday. New satellite images show nearly every single house in the northwestern side of the village of Moschun, near Kyiv, has sustained significant damage. And images show more destruction in Mariupol, including damage to the Regional Intensive Care Hospital.
10:49 p.m. ET, March 14, 2022

Video shows Ukrainian artillery strike on Russian military position in forest outside Kyiv

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

A cloud of smoke rising from a forest is seen in a screenshot from the video.
A cloud of smoke rising from a forest is seen in a screenshot from the video. (Ukraine Ministry of Defense)

The Ukrainian military has conducted an artillery strike on a Russian military position in the outskirts of Kyiv, new video published Monday shows. 

The video was taken by a drone and shows the Russian military position in a forest.

The Ukrainian military did not say where the video was filmed but CNN has geolocated the clip to a grove of trees just east of the village of Ozera, northwest of Kyiv.

It's unclear when the barrage occurred but NASA satellite sensory data from the Fire Information for Resource Management System indicates that several explosions took place around the area on March 11.

As the camera zooms out, the artillery barrage is seen hitting the grove of trees. The village of Ozera and the northern end of the runway at Antonov Air Base is visible.

The villages of Ozera and Moschun — 2 miles (3 kilometers) east across the Irpin River — have been significantly damaged by military strikes.