March 16, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, George Ramsay, Ed Upright and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, March 17, 2022
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7:11 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zaporizhzhia, a destination for thousands of evacuees, has been shelled for the first time, say officials

From Tim Lister, Julia Kesa and Olga Voitovych in Lviv

Evacuees from Mariupol are seen in the parking lot of a shopping center on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 15.
Evacuees from Mariupol are seen in the parking lot of a shopping center on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 15. (Emre Caylak/AFP/Getty Images)

The central Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia has come under Russian fire for the first time, according to officials in the regional administration.

Oleksandr Starukh, the head of Zaporizhzhia regional administration, said on his Telegram channel that the railway station and the area around the botanical garden were struck. No casualties had been recorded.

Separately, the southern command of the Ukrainian armed forces said the damage had probably been done by two missiles, but one had not exploded.

Zaporizhzhia is the destination for thousands of people leaving Mariupol, the besieged city on Ukraine's southern coast.

As of 2 a.m. local time on Wednesday, regional authorities said 3,207 vehicles had reached Zaporizhzhia from Mariupol. Shelter had been provided for more than 3,000 people.

6:19 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Tributes roll in for Fox News cameraman killed in Ukraine

From Eva Tapiero and Anaëlle Jonah in Paris

This image released by the Fox News Channel shows cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski while on assignment with colleagues, the Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan and Jerusalem-based senior producer Yonat Friling, background right, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
This image released by the Fox News Channel shows cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski while on assignment with colleagues, the Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan and Jerusalem-based senior producer Yonat Friling, background right, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Pierre Zakrzewski/Fox News/AP)

France and Ireland have paid tribute to Pierre Zakrzewski, a dual-citizenship Franco-Irish photojournalist killed in Ukraine while on assignment for Fox News network.

Irish President Michael Higgins “offered his deepest sympathies to the family of Pierre Zakrzewski” in a statement released late Tuesday.

“The indiscriminate killings of civilians including journalists must be brought to an end,” the statement says.

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin, meanwhile, said in a tweet Tuesday that he condemned “this indiscriminate and immoral war by Russia on Ukraine.”

French Foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also paid his respects, saying in a Wednesday statement that “it is with great emotion that I learned of the death in Ukraine of the Franco-Irish journalist Pierre Zakrzewski and the Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova."

“I send my deepest condolences to his family, to the family of Oleksandra Kuvshynova and to their loved ones, and stand by them in the face of this tragedy” the statement adds.

“I reiterate the obligation of the armed forces to protect journalists in conformity with international humanitarian law and I condemn in the strongest terms any action that targets them."

Some context: Zakrzewski, 55, and Kuvshynova, 24, were killed in an attack while reporting near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Monday. Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall was also seriously injured and hospitalized in the attack.

The deaths come as journalists working in Ukraine increasingly find themselves coming under fire. Brent Renaud, an award-winning American documentarian, was killed on Sunday in an attack that also injured journalist Juan Arredondo. A Sky News team released footage earlier this month showing them being violently ambushed.

8:17 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky says Russia’s negotiating position is getting "more realistic," but Moscow downplays progress

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Russia’s negotiating position in talks with Ukraine is becoming “more realistic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday.

Speaking in a televised message, Zelensky stressed the need for his country to "keep fighting," but struck a more positive note on negotiations.

"The meetings are ongoing, as I am told the positions are sounding more realistic," he said.

Zelensky emphasized the importance of persevering with the talks as "any war must end in agreement," but added that "we need more time to achieve decisions that serve the interests of Ukraine."

Talks between the two countries are set to pick up again on Wednesday after winding down on Tuesday evening, according to the Ukrainian delegation.

However, Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian negotiating delegation, said the country's objectives in negotiations with Ukraine have not changed since talks between the two sides began.

Medinsky, a presidential aide, said Moscow wants a “peaceful, free, independent and neutral” Ukraine, as quoted by state media RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

"The goal of Russia in these negotiations is exactly the same as the goal of Russia which was set at the very beginning of the special military operation,” he said.

“We need a peaceful, free, independent Ukraine, neutral -- not a member of military blocs, not a member of NATO. A country that is our friend, a neighbor, with whom we are developing relations together, building our future, and which is not a base for military and economic attacks against our country."

Medinsky added that the Russia-Ukraine talks are ongoing, but are “difficult” and “slow.”

"Of course, we would like it all to happen much faster, this is such a sincere desire of the Russian side. We want to come to peace as soon as possible," he said.

5:43 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Russian prisoners of war speak of low morale and shame at "crimes" committed in Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister and Sebastian Shukla

"I want to tell our commander-in-chief to stop terror acts in Ukraine because when we come back we'll rise against him."

The crimes that we committed; we all will be judged."

These are the voices of Russian prisoners of war now held by Ukraine.

Nearly a dozen have appeared in news conferences held by the Ukrainian authorities, just a few of the 600 that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says have been captured.

Their public appearances may be questionable under the Geneva Conventions, which forbid states from causing unnecessary humiliation to prisoners of war. And it is possible that they felt pressure to express views sympathetic to those of their captors.

But three captured Russian air force pilots who spoke to CNN did not suggest they were speaking under duress, and their words appear to chime with other Russian prisoners of war speaking following their captures -- that this is not a war they want to be fighting.

CNN's interview with the three Russian captives revealed that they had deep disquiet about their mission and the suffering of Ukrainian civilians, while they also had harsh words for their commander-in-chief, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Read the full story here:

8:17 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky will deliver remarks virtually to members of the US Congress. Here's what to expect

From CNN's Clare Foran

A handout photo shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivering an address on March 16 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A handout photo shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivering an address on March 16 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Ukraine Presidential Press Service/ABACA/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will deliver a virtual address Wednesday to members of Congress.

It comes amid Russia's ongoing unprovoked and deadly invasion of Ukraine and as Kyiv presses the United States for more assistance in its defense.

"As war rages on in Ukraine, it is with great respect and admiration for the Ukrainian people that we invite all Members of the House and Senate to attend a Virtual Address to the United States Congress delivered by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine on Wednesday, March 16th at 9:00 a.m," Pelosi and Schumer wrote in a letter to members.

There is widespread bipartisan support among US lawmakers for aid to Ukraine, and just last week Congress approved an emergency aid package with $13.6 billion in humanitarian, defensive and economic assistance to the embattled country.

In addition to that, Zelensky recently pressed President Joe Biden during their latest call for more sanctions to further squeeze Russia, CNN has learned.

What Zelensky wants: According to multiple sources familiar with the call, Zelensky specifically asked Biden for further efforts to cut off Russia from international trade and to continue targeting the Russian elite, as the US has continued to add more oligarchs and their families to its sanctions list. Zelensky also mentioned closing off Russia's access to international waterways during the call.

In their letter to lawmakers, Pelosi and Schumer reaffirmed US support for Ukraine amid the war.

"The Congress remains unwavering in our commitment to supporting Ukraine as they face (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's cruel and diabolical aggression, and to passing legislation to cripple and isolate the Russian economy as well as deliver humanitarian, security and economic assistance to Ukraine," they wrote.
"We look forward to the privilege of welcoming President Zelenskyy's address to the House and Senate and to convey our support to the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend democracy," the two top congressional Democrats said.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Annie Grayer and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

4:03 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Poland's deputy prime minister calls for international peacekeeping mission in Ukraine 

From CNN's Antonia Mortenson and James Frater

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski visits Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 15.
Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski visits Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 15. (Ukrainian Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Poland's Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski has called for an international peacekeeping mission to be sent to Ukraine following a meeting Tuesday with the leaders of Poland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Ukraine in Kyiv.

"I believe that a NATO peace mission or a wider international treaty mission is needed, which will be able to defend itself and which will operate in Ukraine," Kaczynski said, according to the Polish Prime Minister's office. "I would like to refer to the consciences of European leaders, to the principles they proclaim, because Ukraine needs help."

On Wednesday, NATO's defense ministers meet in Brussels. 

As he arrived at NATO's headquarters in the Belgian capital Wednesday, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said while details must be looked at before a decision can be made on peacekeeping forces, "we have to continue to show — in action — our support to Ukraine and its freedoms and not just talk."

3:46 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

More than 3,000 cars from besieged Mariupol arrive in Zaporizhzhia 

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

More than 3,000 cars transporting evacuees from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol have arrived in Zaporizhzhia, the head of the regional administration, Oleksandr Starukh, said on his Telegram channel.

Among the arrivals given shelter in the city were 772 children, he said.

Tuesday saw a significant increase in the number of cars able to make it out of Mariupol, which has been bombarded by Russian forces since March 1.

The city council advised residents looking to leave to travel west along the coast to Mangush and Berdyansk and then continue northwest to Tokmak, Vasylivka and Zaporizhzhia.  

Zaporizhzhia attacked: Separately, Starukh said Russian forces had targeted two sites in Zaporizhzhia, including the city's railway station. He said these were the first civilian sites to be hit in the city, but there were no reports of any casualties.

4:09 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

At least 2 people injured in shelling of Kyiv residential building, emergency services say

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv 

Rescuers work next to an apartment building that was hit by shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 16.
Rescuers work next to an apartment building that was hit by shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 16. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

A 12-story residential building near central Kyiv was hit by Russian shelling early Wednesday, setting off fires on several floors, according to a statement from Ukraine’s state emergency services.

The building in Shevchenkivskyi district is located just a few kilometers from the center of the Ukrainian capital.

Initial information indicated two people were injured in the shelling. Rescue workers evacuated 37 people from the building, the statement said.

A neighboring nine-story building was also damaged in the attack, the statement added.

3:20 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

"Mariupol is now just hell": What to know about the deteriorating situation in the Ukrainian city

This color infrared satellite image shows fires burning in eastern Mariupol, Ukraine on March 14.
This color infrared satellite image shows fires burning in eastern Mariupol, Ukraine on March 14. (Maxar Technologies/AP)

Conditions in Mariupol are "unbearable" and "just hell," residents who fled the besieged city in southeastern Ukraine told CNN, as shocking drone footage and satellite photos show the utter devastation wrought by the Russian bombardment.

Here's what we know about the situation:

  • Hospital captives allegations: Doctors and patients were being held against their will in the Mariupol regional intensive care hospital, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration. Kyrylenko said a hospital employee told him staff and patients were staying in the basement, where the sick and injured continued to be treated. "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. Sergei Orlov, deputy mayor of Mariupol, also said the hospital was occupied by Russian troops, who used doctors and patients as captives. "We do not have any access to them," he said.
  • City's destruction: Orlov said Russian forces are "destroying" Mariupol with regular attacks. "Yesterday, we counted 22 aircraft which were bombing our city, and at least 100 bombs they used to bomb our city. The damage is awful," he said Tuesday. Satellite images from Maxar Technologies Monday show the extent of the damage, including homes smoldering after apparently suffering Russian strikes, a destroyed apartment complex and rising plumes of thick smoke.
  • Trapped residents: About 350,000 people are trapped in Mariupol and as many as 2,500 civilians have died, Ukrainian officials estimate. Those who remain are without electricity, water and heat. One woman who managed to escape said she had spent two weeks in a basement with about 60 others, and only left occasionally to retrieve items from her apartment. Another woman said she let 17 people shelter in her house after their homes were destroyed, and cooked soup in her garden using rainwater. She described shells flying overhead "around the clock."
  • Evacuations: For weeks, there has been a failure to formally establish safe corridors to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, which has been besieged since March 1. However, Ukraine's deputy prime minister said about 20,000 people managed to leave Tuesday.

Read more about Mariupol here.