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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12:09 p.m. ET, March 16, 2022

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with Russian counterpart

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke Wednesday with his Russian counterpart, the White House said.

The call between Sullivan and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev marks the highest-level known contact between the US and Russia in weeks.

Sullivan reiterated "the United States’ firm and clear opposition to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine," according to a statement.

"Mr. Sullivan clearly laid out the United States’ commitment to continue imposing costs on Russia, to support the defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, in continued full coordination with our Allies and partners. Mr. Sullivan told General Patrushev that if Russia is serious about diplomacy then Moscow should stop attacking Ukrainian cities and towns. Mr. Sullivan also warned General Patrushev about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine," the statement continued.

3:33 p.m. ET, March 16, 2022

People in line for bread in Ukrainian city of Chernihiv killed by Russian shelling, regional official says

From CNN's Tim Lister and Oleksandra Ochman in Lviv and Gianluca Mezzofiore

(From Telegram)
(From Telegram)

At least 10 people queueing for bread were killed when Russian forces shelled the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv on Wednesday, according to the head of the regional administration, Vyacheslav Chaus.

Video geolocated by CNN shows what appear to be lifeless bodies on the ground, but the images of the bodies had been blurred. 

It also showed someone being carried to a vehicle close by. It is not clear whether the individual was alive.

Chaus said the attack was indicative of Russia’s use of indirect fire against civilians. 

“This is not the first such incoming shell [in the city], nor is it the first shelling of civilians by the enemy. The Russians are shelling and destroying mostly civilian infrastructure in the city of Chernihiv and other cities in the region,” he said while speaking on Ukrainian television. 

Chernihiv is surrounded by Russian forces and has seen repeated shelling over the last week, much of it hitting residential areas. 

Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov refuted US embassy claims that Russian troops killed civilians in the bread line in Chernihiv.

“Today, video footage of civilians who died in Chernihiv, who were allegedly shot by Russian servicemen, was distributed on all propaganda resources of the Kyiv regime. It was indicated that all the dead allegedly stood in line for bread. I would like to emphasize that there were no Russian servicemen in Chernihiv,” Konashenkov said in a video message Wednesday. 

“All Russian troops are outside of Chernihiv,” he said.

10:33 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

NATO has tried to reach Russia unsuccessfully via deconfliction hotline

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

NATO has tried unsuccessfully to connect with Russia via a deconfliction hotline and written letters as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has spread further west toward NATO territory, senior NATO military officials said on Wednesday. 

“We are trying to communicate with them of course,” one of the officials told reporters in a briefing at NATO headquarters. “But it requires two [sides] to communicate.” 

The US also has a separate deconfliction hotline with Russia that it has tested and has determined is functioning but has not yet used in practice, officials have said. 

The officials’ comments followed Russia’s attacks on a Ukrainian military base earlier this week just 10 miles from the Polish border, which raised concerns about the conflict potentially spilling over into a NATO member country. 

The current assessment of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander of Europe Gen. Tod Wolters, the officials said, is that “currently there is no threat to NATO as such. Not a deliberate threat by Russia. Russia is occupied for the time being with Ukraine.”

But there are of course risks, the officials added, which is why there are now discussions about moving NATO’s defensive systems further east. 

“As we have now seen that Russia is prepared to use again, in the middle of Europe, military means to achieve political goals, it is worthwhile and it will be discussed to move forward the integrated air and missile defense system to cover the areas that are adjacent to Russia,” one of the officials said. Those areas include Belarus and potentially Ukraine, he added. 

NATO’s supreme allied commander currently has command and control over some 40,000 soldiers, the official said, as well as hundreds of aircraft and more than 200 ships at sea. 

Asked about Poland’s call on Wednesday to send NATO forces into Ukraine on a “peacekeeping” mission, the NATO military officials suggested such a plan would be untenable.

“We are looking at two nation states that are in a war. If they agree on a reliable and robust peace settlement, I do not necessarily see a need for a peacekeeping mission,” one of the officials said. “And if you are looking at the other version of ‘peacekeeping,’ which is actually ‘peace enforcement,’ I mean, that is war with Russia.” 

“We would then have to ‘protect,’” the official explained, “and then shoot, and then kill and then destroy.”

11:31 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

US lawmakers react to Zelensky's address to Congress

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

US House minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, third left,, Representative Steny Hoyer, center, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16 at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC.
US House minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, third left,, Representative Steny Hoyer, center, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16 at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (Sarahbeth Maney/AFP/Getty Images)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's remarks to lawmakers was "quite remarkable" and that they're "grateful" he was thankful for aid. 

She acknowledged his repeated calls for the West to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine but didn't elaborate. 

"(We're) grateful that he was grateful to United States for all that we have done and what President Biden has done," she said. "The call for the no-fly zone, but if you can't do that, then some other opportunities and identifying with our own challenges to our democracy. I thought it was quite remarkable, but the film was overwhelming with the children and the brutality of the Russians, it's their war crimes right before our very eyes," she added, referencing a video he played of attacks in Ukraine.

She said the House of Representatives is working on legislation in the next couple of days, but she did not elaborate and didn't answer any more questions.  

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Zelensky’s address to Congress an “incredibly effective speech” and said “the message to President Biden is that he needs to step up his game.” This largely mirrored reaction from GOP senators after the speech and differed from Democrats who defended Biden’s handling as effective and forward leaning.  

GOP Rep. Mike McCaul, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, got very emotional about the video that was played during Zelensky’s address, saying, “We need to help Ukraine, give them everything they need to fight this war, and the video we saw was very reminiscent of Nazi Germany. ... And history will judge us. What did you do? What did you do when the bombing started? When the maternity hospitals were bombed and the pregnant women were taken out — blood, children, what did you do?”

“History will judge us if we don't act now and if we don't act strongly,” McCaul said. “This is not a time for partisan rhetoric; this is a time to unify the nation behind Ukraine against one of the most evil forces we have seen since my father's war — and that's World War II, Adolf Hitler.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, told CNN he is concerned about setting up a no-fly zone. 

“I mean, any time you put American pilots and American planes in the sky, with Russian pilots and planes in the sky, you're really taking a chance that we may engage at a level that I don’t think we’re prepared to,” Blunt said.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly also raised concerns about imposing a no-fly zone — and he was skeptical of the idea of transferring aircrafts to Ukraine, suggesting it would not be an effective use of resources. He’s open to more sanctions and providing more defense systems such as surface to air missiles. Kelly, who is up for reelection, also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal” and said that US President Joe Biden should “absolutely” call him that. “Call it what is," he said.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “much more effective tools” are anti-tanks, anti-aircraft missiles and Stinger missiles.

GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus who stationed in Kyiv during his time as an FBI agent, supports a limited no-fly zone. He said there are other ways to enforce it besides shooting down planes, such as through technology like electro-magnetic pulse and sonar radar.

“We’ve got to support a humanitarian no-fly zone,” said Fitzpatrick. “Otherwise, the only other outcome is slaughtering innocent people.”

GOP Sen. Rick Scott, a member of leadership, went further on a no-fly zone than most in his party, saying in a statement: "President Biden needs to make a decision TODAY: either give Ukraine access to the planes and anti-aircraft defense systems it needs to defend itself, or enforce a no-fly zone to close Ukrainian skies to Russian attacks."

9:58 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

"Explosions sound non-stop": What life is like in a village outside Kyiv

From Oleksandr Fylyppov in Lviv

(Courtesy Vitaly Kryshtal)
(Courtesy Vitaly Kryshtal)

An inhabitant of a village north of Kyiv told CNN what life is like caught between opposing Russian and Ukrainian forces engaged in heavy attacks against each other for more than a week.

Vitaly Kryshtal said his village of Nemeshaevo, some 20 miles north-west of Kyiv, was "now between two fires." Thousands of people remained trapped in the area, with opposing troops on both sides.

"Explosions sound non-stop, every two or three minutes. Often shells fly into people's yards," Kryshtal said. People were only able to leave shelters for a few minutes a day.

(Courtesy Vitaly Kryshtal)
(Courtesy Vitaly Kryshtal)

“One day recently it seemed that the shooting stopped for 15 minutes and I could go outside to cook on a fire," he said. "But as soon as I got out, a new shootout began, I had to run back to my basement.”

Kryshtal said people were having to rely on old recipes for preserving food. He was using his grandmother's recipes to stay alive because cooking food outside had become impossible.

Some 1,200 people were evacuated from the area on March 12, but thousands more remain.

10:18 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

CNN's Dana Bash: Zelensky's appeal to US lawmakers in English was done "intentionally"

CNN's Dana Bash said the goal of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's speech to US lawmakers and Americans "was to make it impossible for them not to help." 

Bash said that Zelensky deliberately referenced American heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., plus events like Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and then spoke in English directly addressing US President Joe Biden, after showing a video of attacks in Ukraine.

"Not only ... are those indelible in American history and in our psyche, what were they? They were attacks from the sky. ... And what he's trying to do is to bring it home," she said.

Zelensky has repeatedly called for a no-fly zone since Russia's invasion in Ukraine began.

"He understands an audience, only like somebody who has been in front of an audience outside of politics can, as an entertainer, which is what he was. But the way that he communicates, also the fact that he spoke largely almost entirely in Ukrainian until he played that video ... and then after the video, speaking in English, directly in English without a translator — intentionally so," Bash said.

Zelensky delivered similar video addresses to the parliaments of the UK and Canada.

Watch here:

9:57 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Capitol staffer handed out Ukraine-US flag pins to US lawmakers attending Zelensky's address

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

Capitol staffer handed out Ukraine-US flag pins to lawmakers attending Zelensky's address at the Capitol on March 16.
Capitol staffer handed out Ukraine-US flag pins to lawmakers attending Zelensky's address at the Capitol on March 16. (Daniella Diaz/CNN)

Ahead of Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky's virtual address, most US lawmakers were seen wearing a pin with the US and Ukraine flag that were handed out by a Capitol Hill staffer.

The speech was attended by Democratic and Republican members of the US House and Senate.

10:29 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky gets bipartisan standing ovation as he wraps his address

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16 at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16 at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (J. Scott Applewhite/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky received another standing ovation as he finished his remarks to bipartisan members of the US House and Senate. He also received a standing ovation before he spoke.

The historic speech given as a virtual address comes as the United States is under pressure from Ukraine to supply more military assistance to the embattled country as it fights back against Russia's deadly attack.

Zelensky also delivered similar addresses to the UK and Canadian parliaments.

10:06 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky makes direct appeal to Biden: "Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace"

Members of the US Congress listen during a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (on screen) on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC.
Members of the US Congress listen during a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (on screen) on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (Sarah Silbiger/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky directly addressed US President Joe Biden in his speech to Congress, calling on him to be "the leader of peace."

"I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths. And this is my main issue as the leader of the people, great Ukrainians, and as the leader of my nation. I'm addressing the President Biden: You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace," Zelensky said in English, concluding his remarks.  

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