March 17, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Travis Caldwell, Seán Federico-O'Murchú, George Ramsay, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022
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2:29 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

Russian forces "continue to want to conduct a siege of Kyiv," US defense official says 

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Russian forces “continue to want to conduct a siege of Kyiv,” a senior US defense official told reporters on Thursday, based on troop movements and the types of weapons Russian forces are moving from the rear “to join their advancing elements."

While Russian forces have not moved closer to Kyiv’s city center over the last 24 hours, the US has observed that Russian forces are moving some forces “from the rear to join their advancing elements,” and “some of those forces, some of those capabilities are artillery, long-range artillery,” the official said.

Because of that, “it appears” that Russian forces "continue to want to conduct a siege of Kyiv," the official added, “cause that’s what you want to use artillery for.”

“They clearly are trying, particularly around Kyiv to improve their ability to hit the city from afar with munitions,” the official said.

3:45 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

Pelosi recites poem from Bono about Ukraine during St. Patrick’s Day luncheon

From CNN’s Devan Cole

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at the annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon at the Capitol on March 17.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at the annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon at the Capitol on March 17. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi honored Ukraine Thursday by reciting a poem about the country written by U2 singer Bono.

"Ireland's sorrow and pain
Is now the Ukraine
And Saint Patrick's name now Zelensky,” the poem read in part.

Pelosi delivered the poem at an annual luncheon at the Capitol that celebrates the US’ relationship with Ireland. The California Democrat said just before reading the poem that it was sent to her earlier Thursday by Bono, an Irish rock star who is U2’s lead singer and lyricist.

US President Joe Biden, who attended the luncheon, said during the event that Ireland has “stepped up” in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine, and called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “murderous dictator.”

2:24 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

German chancellor: We feel "obliged to do everything to give diplomacy a chance and end the war" in Ukraine

From CNN’s Inke Kappeler and Pierre Meilhan

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for a press conference in Berlin on Thursday.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for a press conference in Berlin on Thursday. (Michael Sohn/AFP/Pool/Getty Images)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday German feels “obliged to do everything to give diplomacy a chance and end the war” in Ukraine.

Scholz, whose comments followed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to the German parliament, said that he was “deeply” touched by what Zelensky said. 

Echoing similar remarks by western leaders, the German leader also stressed that the conflict is “Putin’s war” and that the Russian president “bears the sole responsibility.” 

Scholz said that the aid for Ukraine shall contribute to make “the resilience of the Ukrainians as strong as possible“ and that “the international community found precise means to heavily damage Russia, so that this war already will have dramatic effects on Russia.“ 

The German leader also said his country is making long-term plans for Ukrainian refugees and recognized the that it is “a huge challenge to take in Ukrainians.” Germany wants to find a solution instead of discussing financing for weeks and months, said Scholz, while stressing that “we want to do it well.“

Further developments of the war will determine how to integrate Ukrainians in Germany Scholz added. “We may not repeat the mistake that this is only temporary. We must plan on integration into kindergartens, schools and job market,“ the chancellor emphasized. “If people will go back, then there will have been a bridge and friendships created between Ukraine and Germany.“

2:53 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

About 30,000 people have fled besieged city of Mariupol since invasion began, city council says

From CNN’s Josh Pennington

Evacuees from Mariupol arrive at a makeshift registration center for displaced people on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia on March 16.
Evacuees from Mariupol arrive at a makeshift registration center for displaced people on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia on March 16. Emre Caylak/AFP/Getty Images)

About 30,000 civilians have now left the southeastern city of Mariupol en route to Zaporizhzhia since Russia's invasion began, according to a post on the Telegram channel of Mariupol city council.

It says the current situation in Mariupol is “critical” with a Russian blockade now into its sixteenth day.

More than 350,000 residents of Mariupol are continuing to hide in shelters and basements to escape the “continuous shelling by Russian occupation forces,” with an average of 50 to 200 air strikes hitting the city each day causing enormous destruction, according to the city council, which also estimated that about “80% of the city's housing structures are destroyed and 30% irreparably lost.”

Despite coming under continuous shelling, “dismantling of debris and rescue” is continuing as much as possible at the site of the Drama Theater and the Neptune Pool Building which was bombed on Wednesday, the council continued, adding that “information about the victims is still being clarified.”

2:17 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

Russian forces have conducted over 1,000 missile launches since beginning of invasion, US official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Russian forces have now conducted “more than 1,000 missile launches” since the beginning of their invasion of Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters Thursday.

The US is seeing “continued naval activity in the north Black Sea off the coast of Odesa,” but there has been no “shelling over the course of the last 24 hours,” the official said.

There have been “no imminent signs of an amphibious assault on Odesa,” the official added.

2:01 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

Twitter's restrictions on Russian state media have successfully limited reach of content, company says

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Twitter said Wednesday that its interventions against Russian state media have successfully limited the reach of that content, reducing it by 30% on the platform.

The announcement follows Twitter's effort late last month to curb users' sharing of Russian state media content. At the time, Twitter said that users had been sharing links to Russian state outlets more than 45,000 times a day, far surpassing the number of shares by actual Russian state media accounts on Twitter. 

The company didn't immediately respond to questions Thursday about how widely viewed Russian state media content may now be on the platform. 

Twitter began applying warning labels on Feb. 28 to all links leading to Russian state media websites, and it began demoting that content algorithmically. So far, 61,000 tweets have been labeled under the change, the company said in a blog post Wednesday.

Twitter also said Wednesday it has now begun labeling Ukrainian and Belarusian government accounts as being government-run.

Twitter has removed more than 75,000 accounts since the invasion for attempted platform manipulation and inauthentic behavior, the company added, as well as 50,000 pieces of misleading content about the war such as videos falsely purporting to show the Ukraine conflict. Twitter didn't immediately respond to questions about how much misleading content may remain on its platform that has not been removed.

It is not clear whether all of the 75,000 removed accounts had been sharing Ukraine-related content, but Twitter said it did not detect any specific government-coordinated influence operations among them.

2:04 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

Koch Industries condemns invasion of Ukraine, but says it will continue to operate in Russia

From CNN’s Matt Egan

Koch Industries, the conglomerate run by billionaire Charles Koch, is planning to stay in Russia even as hundreds of Western companies have scaled back operations there following the invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement on Wednesday, Koch Industries announced its Guardian Industries subsidiary will continue to operate two glass manufacturing facilities in Russia that employ about 600 people. 

“While Guardian’s business in Russia is a very small part of Koch, we will not walk away from our employees there or hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them,” Koch Industries President Dave Robertson said in the statement. “Doing so would only put our employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good.”

Beyond the two factories, Koch Industries said it employs 15 people in Russia but has no other physical assets in the country. 

The announcement came on the same day that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called on America, including business leaders, to do more during what is the “darkest time” for his country.

"All American companies must leave Russia from their market, leave their market immediately, because it is flooded with our blood,” Zelensky said during his address to Congress on Wednesday.

Koch Industries said it is complying with all sanctions, laws and regulations within all countries it operates in. 

The company condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. 

“The horrific and abhorrent aggression against Ukraine is an affront to humanity,” Robertson said. 

Koch Industries said it has provided financial assistance to employees and their families from Ukraine and humanitarian aid to those impacted in neighboring countries.

2:00 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

American couple describes the struggle to get their prospective adoptive children out of Ukraine

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Leo and Wendy Van Asten
Leo and Wendy Van Asten (CNN via Cisco WebEx)

Two Ukrainian children who were awaiting adoption by an American couple are now stranded in the country as the war progresses and the adoption process is stalled.

Wendy and Leo Van Asten told CNN's Bianna Golodryga that they are concerned for the safety and well-being of their prospective adoptive children.

"The last time we spoke to the children was with our perspective adoptive son, about three nights ago when they were heading to the bomb shelter in their building, yet again, and he said, 'Mama, I can hear tanks firing. We're going to the bunker,'" Wendy said.

This isn't the first time the children, who are 14 and 15 years old, have experienced the trauma of war.

"This is not the first time that they've had to evacuate from a war. They were brought out of their original hometown of Donetsk in 2014 when all of that action took place over there. So unfortunately, this is not new for them. So they have been very quiet," Leo said.

Both prospective parents are concerned about the "compounding of trauma" that the children are facing.

"They already had trauma — I mean they've already been having the separation from their birth family is trauma enough. A war zone — a first war zone is trauma enough and now a second one that's much worse. This is much different. Obviously, so widespread throughout Ukraine and we are so concerned for what this is doing to them. And, of course, we're concerned for their safety because although they haven't received direct shelling, they have received enough that they've gone to the bunker every day. So we're scared that one of those times it could be them," Wendy explained.

Leo added that the war has stalled adoption efforts.

"Getting them out of the country is stalled and ultimately, what we would love is for them to be able to find some refuge in the United States. We'd love to have our two prospective adoptive children in our home so we can care for every need they have. But it's stalled on their side. The Ukrainian government is not allowing children to come to the United States and honestly, right now the United States doesn't have emergency Visas in accomplice to -- place to cover these children," he said.

Watch the full interview here:

1:52 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

US expects majority of Ukrainian refugees will stay in Europe, Homeland Security secretary says

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

The Department of Homeland Security has deployed refugee officers to assist with the Ukrainian refugee crisis, though it’s unclear how many will ultimately want to come to the United States. 

“We don’t have estimates of the number of Ukrainians who will seek refuge a tremendous distance away from their country, but we understand that the vast majority of Ukrainians hope to return to Ukraine,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters Thursday, citing communications with European countries and information gathered directly. 

DHS is the lead federal agency coordinating domestic preparedness and response efforts related to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Mayorkas also said the administration is exploring other avenues of humanitarian relief that they can extend to Ukrainians. CNN previously reported that the administration is actively discussing how to expedite the process for Ukrainian refugees trying to come to the United States.  

Officials are also monitoring for a potential uptick in Ukrainians and Russians seeking entry at the US-Mexico border. Mayorkas said Border Patrol agents were reminded of exemptions to a Trump-era pandemic emergency rule, known as Title 42, that’s allowed authorities to turn away migrants at the US-Mexico border. 

“There was guidance issued to Border Patrol agents that reminded them of the fact that individualized exceptions to the Title 42 authority held by the (CDC) is in place and can be applied to Ukrainians,” he said.