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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1:15 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

The mayor of Kyiv has written a letter to the Pope asking him to visit the Ukrainian capital

From CNN’s Delia Gallagher

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has written a letter to Pope Francis asking him to visit the city, according to Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni.

Klitschko wrote to Francis on March 8, saying that the Pope’s presence in Kyiv “is key for saving lives and paving the path to peace in our city, country and beyond.”

Klitschko also suggested a joint video conference with President Zelensky if the Pope were not able to personally make the visit.

The Vatican spokesperson acknowledged receipt of the letter but did not say whether the Pope would visit Kyiv or participate in a video conference.

The spokesperson said that Francis was “close to the suffering of the city and its people, to those who had to flee and to those working in the city’s administration.”

The Pope has also appealed for an end to the war and has offered the Vatican’s assistance in mediation.

1:06 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Ukrainian official accuses Russian forces of holding people captive at a hospital in Mariupol 

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in Lviv and Marina Marukhnych in Odessa 

A Ukrainian official has accused Russian troops of holding people captive at a Mariupol hospital on Tuesday.  

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Head of Donetsk regional administration, said doctors and patients were being held against their will in the Mariupol regional intensive care hospital, also referred to as Hospital No. 2.  

In a statement posted on his official Telegram channel, Kyrylenko said one of the hospital employees managed to pass on information about what was happening.  

"It is impossible to get out of the hospital. They shoot hard, we sit in the basement. Cars have not been able to drive to the hospital for two days. High-rise buildings around us are burning … the Russians have rushed 400 people from neighboring buildings to our hospital. We can't leave,” Kyrylenko said, quoting the employee of the hospital.  

Kyrylenko said the hospital was “practically destroyed” several days ago, but that its staff and patients stayed in the basement where the patients continued to be treated.

“I appeal to international human rights organizations to respond to these vicious violations of the norms and customs of war, to these egregious crimes against humanity. Russia and every citizen involved in crimes in Ukraine must be punished,” he said.  

1:42 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

It's 7 p.m. in Kyiv. Catch up with the latest developments in Ukraine.

A resident reacts after being rescued from her apartment by firefighters after the building was hit by a Russian attack early in the morning of March 15, in a neighborhood in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A resident reacts after being rescued from her apartment by firefighters after the building was hit by a Russian attack early in the morning of March 15, in a neighborhood in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

President Zelensky addressed the Canadian parliament on Tuesday, reiterating his global call to close air space over Ukraine and implement tougher sanctions against Russia and Russian officials.

Fresh sanctions imposed by and on Russians: Russia announced sanctions against US President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, US officials and other associated individuals. It also banned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand from entering the country.

Canada imposed new restrictions on 15 Russian officials who enabled and supported Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The US targeted 11 Russian military leaders – some of whom have been involved in suppressing Russian protesters and dissent in occupied areas of Ukraine — with sanctions on Tuesday, in addition to new sanctions from the Treasury Department.

The UK and the EU also announced sanctions against Russia. More than 600 Russian nationals are being targeted in the EU's sanctions. The UK's sanctions include banning the export of luxury goods to Russia and tariffs on goods worth more than $1 billion.

An update on the protest on Russian state media broadcast: A lawyer for the Russian television editor who held up an anti-war sign during a live broadcast on Monday confirmed to CNN that they have found Marina Ovsyannikova and she is in Moscow court. A photo showing Ovsyannikova and one of her lawyers, Anton Gashinsky, was published on Telegram this afternoon. Dmitry Zakhvatov and other lawyers had been trying to locate the Channel One editor since her protest on Monday.

Refugee crisis: More than three million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday.

Kyiv under attack: At least four buildings in residential areas of Kyiv were hit by strikes early Tuesday morning, killing four people

Despite 2,500 civilians leaving, thousands are still trapped in Mariupol: An estimated 2,000 private cars have been able to leave the besieged city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine on Tuesday, Mariupol's city council said in a statement. The departures took place despite the ongoing failure to formally establish safe corridors to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, which has been besieged since March 1. 

Further casualties: A strike in northwestern Ukraine on Monday killed at least 19 people, officials said Tuesday, after having initially reported no casualties. The strike hit a TV tower near the city of Rivne and officials said the area was still being cleared.

Zelensky to meet EU leaders: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Slovenia's Janez Janša and the Czech Republic's Petr Fiala are heading to Kyiv from Poland to meet Zelensky and confirm the EU's "unequivocal support" and "present a broad package of support."

12:55 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

US CENTCOM general: "Small groups" are "trying" to make their way to Ukraine from Syria to help Russians

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, told US lawmakers on Tuesday that “very small groups of people” are “trying” to make their way to Ukraine from Syria to fight alongside Russian forces as foreign fighters.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the US has seen evidence that Russia is trying to recruit foreign fighters from the Middle East to fight alongside their forces in Ukraine previously

12:29 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Russia bans Canada's prime minister, foreign minister and minister of defense from entering country

From CNN staff

Russia has banned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand from entering the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted on Tuesday.

These individuals, as of March 15, are on a "black list," the tweet explains.

12:40 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

NATO is "very closely monitoring" Ukrainian airspace and border areas following recent incidents

From CNN's James Frater

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is "very closely monitoring Ukraine’s airspace and the border areas,” following recent incidents in Ukraine.

When asked about the Russian airstrike that killed dozens on Sunday near the Polish border, and what consequences there would be if Russian missiles entered NATO territory accidentally or on purpose, Stoltenberg said: “Our main responsibility is to protect and defend all NATO allies, so one billion people in 30 different countries.”

There is “always a risk for incidents and accidents,” when there is fighting going on close to NATO borders, he warned.

NATO, he stressed, would make “every effort to prevent such incidents and accidents and if they happen to make sure that they don't spiral out of control and create really dangerous situations.”

The secretary general also said that, “NATO's integrated air and missile defense tracked the flight path of an object which entered Romanian airspace on Sunday.” 

In response, a “Romanian fighter aircraft scrambled immediately to investigate and the Romanian authorities and NATO are reviewing this incident.”

NATO is also reviewing last week's drone crash in Croatia. With more military activity by planes and drones in the air, there is an increased risk of accidents, he added.

Read more about NATO and their members here.

11:57 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

More than 160,000 Ukrainian refugees apply for long-term visas in the Czech Republic

From CNN’s Benjamin Brown

The Czech Republic has seen 161,091 Ukrainian refugees apply for special long-term visas since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, according to the Czech Ministry of the Interior, citing Monday’s figures.

More than 11,000 refugees registered with Czech authorities on Monday. That number dropped slightly below the seven-day average of 12,428. With 86,966 new arrivals, more than half of the Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic registered in the past week.

As Ukrainians are not required visas for entry to the Czech Republic, the number of refugees in the country is likely to be considerably higher.

11:56 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Imagine Ottawa airport bombed and Vancouver under siege, Zelensky tells Canada's parliament

From CNN's Eric Levenson

Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky asked Canadian lawmakers to imagine how they would personally react to an invasion of the country's own cities in a speech before Canada's Parliament on Tuesday.

"Can you only imagine that on 4:00 a.m., you start hearing bomb explosions, severe explosions? Can you imagine hearing you, your children, hear all of these severe explosions? Bombing of airport? Bombing of Ottawa airport? Tens of other cities of your wonderful country — can you imagine that?" he said.

Further, he asked them to imagine the attacks on Mariupol in southeast Ukraine in terms of a personal city.

"Imagine someone is laying siege to Vancouver. Can you just imagine that for a second? All these people who are left in such city. That is exactly the situation that the city of Mariupol is suffering right now," he said. "And they are left without heat or hydro or without means of communicating, almost without food, without water."

He continued the analogy: "Can you imagine the famous CN Tower in Toronto, if it was hit by Russian bombs? Of course I don't wish this on anyone, but this is our reality in which we live."

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

Zelensky reiterates global call to close airspace and implement sanctions

From CNN staff

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his global call to close the airspace over Ukraine and for Canada and global allies to increase their efforts of implementing sanctions.

"I know you support Ukraine. We've been friends with you ... but also I would like you to understand and I would like you to feel this, what we feel every day. We want to live and we want to be victorious. We want to prevail for the sake of life," Zelensky said in an address via video to Canada's parliament.  

"Can you imagine when you called your friends, your friendly nation, and you ask, 'Please close the sky, close the airspace, please stop the bombing.' How many more missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen? And they ... express their deep concerns about the situation. When we talked with our partners, they said, 'Please, hold on, hold on a little longer,'" he said. 

Zelensky also said he has not heard a clear answer on becoming a NATO member.

"It's dire straits, but it also allowed us to see who our real friends are over the last 20 days and as well, eight previous years," he said.

"You've offered your help, your assistance, at our earliest request, you supply us with the military assistance, with humanitarian assistance, you imposed severe sanctions, serious sanctions. At the same time, we see that unfortunately, they did not bring the end to the war," he added.

Zelensky said "you all need to do more to stop Russia, to protect Ukraine and by doing that, to protect Europe from Russian threat."