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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12:54 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Pakistan sends emergency aid to Ukraine

From CNN's Sophia Saifi in Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistan sent two C-130 planes of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine Tuesday night, according to Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Speaking at Noor Khan Airbase in the Pakistani capital as the planes departed, Qureshi said the aid was sent at the request of the Ukrainian Embassy in Islamabad.

The aid includes tents, blankets, sleeping bags, generators, soap, hand wash, medicine and canned food.

Pakistan “wishes for the situation to settle down through dialogue and diplomacy,” Qureshi said, adding the aid is being sent on the basis of Pakistan’s “long history of good relations with Ukraine.”

Some context: Pakistan has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine — abstaining from a vote of the UN General Assembly on March 2.

Pakistan's United Nations ambassador Munir Akram said at the time the country was "deeply concerned" by the war in Ukraine and "repeatedly stressed the need for de-escalation, renewed negotiations."

The heads of various foreign missions in Pakistan — including the EU, the US, the UK, Norway and Japan — previously issued a joint letter urging Islamabad to condemn Russia's invasion.

12:39 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Analysis: Nordic countries wonder if they are next on Putin's list

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

Russian President Vladimir Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has done more to unify Western Europe than almost any event since the end of World War II.

Nations that were neutral have provided arms for Ukrainians; governments that had for years missed their NATO defense spending obligations have made spectacular U-turns; and countries that had deep economic ties to Russia have gone further in breaking the link than anyone had seriously envisaged little over a month ago.

The fate of the three Nordic nations that sit on the Scandinavian Peninsula — Norway, Sweden and Finland — has been brought into sharp focus by the crisis due to their unique relationship with each other, the rest of Europe and Russia.  

  • Both Norway and Finland share land borders with Russia, though Norway's is significantly smaller at under 124 miles (200 kilometers), compared to Finland's 800-mile frontier.
  • Norway, the Western-most of the three, is a member of NATO but is not in the European Union, while Finland and Sweden are in the EU, but not in NATO.  
  • All three have historically supported a non-confrontational approach to Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union due to their proximity.
  • All three are also members of the EU's Schengen area, meaning there is borderless travel between the three countries.  

It's these last two facts that have played a significant role in the major rethink of European security over the past three weeks: How can you have a policy of non-confrontation when you also simultaneously share an open land mass with Russia? 

But that policy appears to be changing: Active conversations, once viewed by Sweden and Finland as a risky act of provocation against Russia, are now taking place in both countries about joining NATO. And, along with their neighbor Norway, both are throwing non-confrontation out the window.  

"Finland and Sweden suddenly breaking long-held position(s) not to export arms to war zones and sending supplies to Ukraine has been the biggest shock for Europeans in terms of the Nordic response — and I suspect for Putin," said Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a leading researcher in global security at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.  

Read the full analysis here.

12:26 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Russia is calling in military reinforcements from across the country, UK Defense Ministry says

From CNN's Josh Campbell 

Faced with “continued personnel losses” in Ukraine, the Russian military is calling up reinforcements from across the entire country, according to the latest public intelligence assessment released Tuesday by the UK Ministry of Defence. 

“Russia is increasingly seeking to generate additional troops to bolster and replace its personnel losses,” the UK assessment said.
“It is likely Russia is struggling to conduct offensive operations in the face of sustained Ukrainian resistance.” 

The UK ministry said Russia was redeploying forces from as far away as "its Eastern Military District, Pacific Fleet and Armenia" and was increasingly tapping other sources of fighters such as "private military companies, Syrians, and other mercenaries."

“Russia will likely attempt to use these forces to hold captured territory and free up its combat power to renew stalled offensive operations,” the UK assessment said. 
8:16 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky signals he doesn't expect Ukraine to join NATO anytime soon. Here's what to know

From CNN's By Andrew Carey, Oleksandra Ochman, Kylie Atwood and Paul LeBlanc

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attendees applaud after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed them by video link during a meeting of the the Joint Expeditionary Force, in London, Tuesday, March 15.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attendees applaud after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed them by video link during a meeting of the the Joint Expeditionary Force, in London, Tuesday, March 15. (Justin Tallis/Pool/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dropped his clearest hint yet that he does not expect his country to join NATO anytime soon.

"For years we have been hearing about how the door is supposedly open (to NATO membership) but now we hear that we cannot enter. And it is true, and it must be acknowledged," he said during an address by video link to leaders of the British-led Joint Expeditionary Force.
"I am glad that our people are beginning to understand this and rely on themselves and on our partners who assist us."

Here's why Zelensky's comments are significant:

  • What is NATO: The security alliance of 30 North American and European nations was created in 1949 in response to the start of the Cold War. Its original purpose was to protect the West from the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
  • Why Putin sees it as a threat: Since the end of the Cold War, many former Soviet satellite states have joined NATO, meaning Russia now shares a land border with the world's largest military alliance, tempering Russian leader Vladimir Putin's geopolitical ambitions in what was once Moscow's sphere of influence.
  • Putin's excuse for war: Ukraine's desire to join NATO, and its status as a NATO partner — seen as a step on the way to eventual full membership — was among the numerous grievances Putin cited in an attempt to justify his country's invasion of its neighbor.
  • Reaction: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Zelensky's remarks a "reflection of reality" as "Ukraine was not going to get into NATO tomorrow." Blinken called Putin's concerns about Ukraine being centered on its admission to NATO "a lie." Putin has demonstrated that the war is about "denying Ukraine its independent existence," Blinken said.
  • Article 5: Zelensky also criticized the effectiveness of NATO's Article 5 provision — the principle that an attack on one member is an attack on all — calling it "weak." His comments came as key cities in Ukraine, including around Kyiv and Mariupol, reported extensive damage and dire situations for residents. The US is reluctant to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine or supply the country with jets, two things repeatedly requested by Zelensky, as it could escalate into a direct confrontation with Russia.
"Some states of alliance have intimidated themselves, saying that they can't answer. That they cannot collide with Russian missiles and planes in the Ukrainian sky. Because this, they say, will lead to escalation, will lead to the Third World War. … And what will they say if Russia goes further to Europe, attacking other countries? I am sure the same thing they say to Ukraine. Article 5 of the NATO treaty has never been as weak as it is now. This is just our opinion," Zelensky said.

Read the full story here.

12:00 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

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

New satellite image shows the destruction of Russian helicopters at an airport in Kherson while survivors and drone footage reveal the scale of devastation in the southern city of Mariupol.

Here's the latest:

  • Zelensky's NATO signal: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has dropped his clearest hint yet that he does not expect his country to join NATO anytime soon. “For years we have been hearing about how the door is supposedly open [to NATO membership] but now we hear that we cannot enter. And it is true, and it must be acknowledged,” he said. Kyiv's wish to be part of the 30-member defense alliance was among the grievances Russian leader Vladimir Putin cited in an attempt to justify his invasion of Ukraine. In another address Tuesday, Zelensky said NATO's Article 5 — the principle that an attack on one member is an attack on all — "has never been as weak as it is now." 
  • Zelensky to address US lawmakers: The Ukrainian President is set to deliver a rare wartime speech to the US Congress Wednesday and is likely to make fresh calls for steps like a no-fly zone and help acquiring fighter jets. President Joe Biden has rejected those moves as potentially dragging the US into conflict with Russia, but is coming under increasing pressure from lawmakers to do more on Ukraine. The US President is expected to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, a White House official told CNN.
  • On the ground: Recent satellite and drone images show the Ukrainian military destroyed at least three Russian military helicopters at Kherson airport in southern Ukraine. It comes as key cities, including around Kyiv and Mariupol, reported extensive damage and dire situations that have been described as "hell." Explosions were heard in Kyiv's suburbs early Wednesday as air raid sirens once again blared in the Ukrainian capital. Fatalities were also reported Tuesday after shelling hit buildings in residential areas across Kyiv.
  • Hospital captives allegations: A Ukrainian official has accused Russian troops of holding people captive at a Mariupol hospital. The head of Donetsk regional administration said doctors and patients were being held against their will in the Mariupol regional intensive care hospital. The city's deputy mayor also said Russian forces are "destroying" the besieged city. In Mariupol, smoldering homes could be seen. Ukrainian officials estimate more than 2,500 civilians have died in the city.
  • EU leaders' visit: The Czech Prime Minister said the "main goal" of the Polish, Slovenian and Czech leaders' visit to Kyiv was to tell Ukrainians they are "not alone" in their fight against the Russian invasion. The three leaders arrived by train Tuesday and met with Zelensky and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
  • Evacuations: Nearly 29,000 civilians were evacuated through evacuation corridors Tuesday, Ukraine's deputy prime minister said, with most of them — 20,000 — leaving Mariupol. Of the 4,000 cars that left the city, 570 had arrived in the southeastern city of Zaporizhia, an official said. Thousands more were evacuated from the Sumy region, while 320 wards and employees of a hospital were evacuated from the Kharkiv region.
11:39 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Ukrainian women who escaped their country return to help fight Russia's invasion

From CNN's Ed Lavandera and Cristiana Moisescu in Przemysl, Poland

There is a sole train line that runs between Ukraine and the station in the border town of Przemysl, Poland. The trains that go back and forth are a faded blue and yellow, the national colors of the besieged country.

The scene on Platform Five looked different this week. Thousands of refugees were still coming off the trains from Ukraine, mostly women and children looking for safety as Russian forces step up their attacks.

But the people waiting for the journey back across the border were no longer almost entirely male. This line was perhaps half full of women queuing to get back to the war zone.

Mariia Halligan told CNN she's going to her home city of Kyiv to be with her family and Canadian husband to fight, in her words, "Russian terrorists."

"If I have to do this, I will do it for my country, for my relatives, for my friends," she said, adding there was no room for her to be nervous.
"I'm not (a) man, I can't kill. I'm (a) woman and my work (is to) keep balance and help, and be kind, and care about relatives, family, friends and all Ukraine. But now I feel all Ukrainians (are) my relatives. And I hope that world society will help Ukrainians, all Ukrainians, because it's my family."

She clutched a paper heart, made for her in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag by Polish children, who hoped it would be a good luck talisman.

Every woman in the line on this cool, cloudy day had their own reasons for returning to their country at war. But one theme seemed to connect almost every woman waiting to board the train. They view returning home to a war zone as an act of symbolic resistance to Russian aggressors.

Their faces looked determined, and the line was quieter than the emotional rush of people fleeing into Poland.

Read the full story:

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

How to watch Ukrainian President Zelensky's virtual address to Congress

From CNN's Shawna Mizelle

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will deliver a virtual address Wednesday to US members of Congress, as Ukraine continues to press the United States for more assistance in its fight against Russia's unprovoked and deadly ongoing invasion.

Zelensky will appear via video conference and be introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she gavels in the session. He is expected to speak for approximately 15 minutes.

Zelensky's remarks are set to air live at 9 a.m. ET.

Watch it here: A livestream of Zelensky's speech to Congress will be featured on CNN.com without requiring a login. CNN's special coverage of the speech will stream live for pay TV subscribers only via CNNgo (CNN.com/go and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, Samsung Smart TV and Android TV) and on the CNN mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the expected appearance in a letter to members on Monday, writing that "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" the address.

Zelensky is likely to make fresh calls for steps like a no-fly zone and help acquiring fighter jets in his address to lawmakers.

President Joe Biden has so far rejected those steps as potentially dragging the US into conflict with Russia, but, according to the White House, the President is intent on demonstrating the support the US is providing and will detail it in a separate speech later Wednesday.

According to a US official, Biden is expected to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance for Ukraine, bringing the total pledged to $2 billion since the beginning of the Biden administration. 

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Clare Floran and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

10:07 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

At least 3 Russian military helicopters blown up in Ukrainian strike on Kherson airport

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

A satellite image shows a plume of smoke rising from the Kherson International Airport on Tuesday, March 15. When zoomed in, the images show a number of helicopters on fire.
A satellite image shows a plume of smoke rising from the Kherson International Airport on Tuesday, March 15. When zoomed in, the images show a number of helicopters on fire. (Planet Labs, PBC)

The Ukrainian military destroyed a number of Russian military helicopters at the Kherson International Airport Tuesday, new satellite images from Planet Labs show.

A large black plume of smoke is seen rising from the airport in the satellite image, with a number of helicopters on fire.

In a zoomed-in portion of the image, helicopters can be seen burning.
In a zoomed-in portion of the image, helicopters can be seen burning. (Planet Labs, PBC)

It's the most destructive known strike the Ukrainian military has conducted against Russian helicopters during the war, with at least three Russian helicopters seen on fire, or destroyed, at the airport.

Military vehicles seen near the airport have also been hit. 

A large plume of smoke rises from the airport.
A large plume of smoke rises from the airport. (From Telegram)

Another image, taken by a drone hovering above the nearby village of Komyshany, also shows the large plume of smoke rising from the airport. 

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the image.

The military strike at the airport was picked up by NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS), which tracks large fires around the world. 

According to the sensory data collected by FIRMS, the military strike occurred around 1:42 p.m. local time.

A satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows a number of Russian military helicopters sitting on the tarmac at the airport on Monday.
A satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows a number of Russian military helicopters sitting on the tarmac at the airport on Monday. (Maxar Technologies)

On Monday, satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed a number of Russian military helicopters on the tarmac at Kherson's International Airport. Dozens of military vehicles are also seen in the surrounding area. 

8:44 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

"Europe stands with you": EU leaders express solidarity with Ukraine after Zelensky meeting

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen, Abby Baggini, Mariya Knight and Jeevan Ravindran

The Prime Ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic reaffirmed their support for Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion during a meeting Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in the capital, Kyiv.

Following the meeting, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called for the European Union to "very quickly" grant Ukraine candidate status.

"We are here to admire your fight against such a cruel aggressor. This invasion has to stop," Morawiecki said. "Those who are killed by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, they can never be forgotten. They are not forgotten."

He also emphasized Poland, which shares a 310-mile (500-kilometer) border with Ukraine, would try to help Ukraine organize its defenses.

"We will never leave you alone. We will be with you. Because we know you are fighting not only for your homes, for your freedom, for your security, but also for ours," he said.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said having an in-person discussion with Zelensky was "something really special."

"The main goal of our visit and the main message of our mission is to say to our Ukrainian friends that they are not alone, that Europe stands with you," Fiala said.

Fiala said he wanted to assure Ukrainians we are "hosting your wives and children" and providing them with "refuge" in the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic has now taken in 250,000 refugees, according to the prime minister, who said they will "continue to provide more aid and support."

Zelensky thanked the EU leaders for their "wonderful support" when "so many other ambassadors have left Ukraine because of the full-scale Russian invasion."

"Most important, is that we truly trust these leaders," Zelensky said. "When we are talking about the security guarantees, about our future in the European Union, or when we talk about the sanctions policy, we are 100% assured that whatever we are discussing, whatever we talk about, this will reach a positive outcome for our country."
He continued that with "friends like this," Ukraine "can win."

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