March 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, George Ramsay, Jeevan Ravindran, Laura Smith-Spark, Peter Wilkinson, Adrienne Vogt and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022
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11:14 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Russia's foreign minister says Russia will target any weapons shipments entering Ukraine

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference in Moscow, Russia on March 17.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference in Moscow, Russia on March 17. (Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Any weapons shipments entering Ukraine will be a “legitimate” target for Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday, according to Russian state news agency TASS. 

"We have made it very clear that any cargo that will enter the territory of Ukraine, which we will consider ... [carrying] weapons, will become a legitimate target," he reportedly told state TV channel RT.

Some context: A number of NATO countries have pledged military aid to Ukraine ranging from drones to anti-tank missiles. 

Lavrov said Soviet and Russian-made missile defense systems, which are available to some NATO countries, cannot be legally transferred to third countries, according to TASS.

10:50 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Xi says China and US have a responsibility to ensure peace, according to Chinese state media

From CNN’s Yong Xiong in Seoul, South Korea

China and the US have a responsibility to ensure peace, Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President Joe Biden during a video call Friday, according to Chinese state media CCTV.

“As permanent members of the UN Security Council and the world's two largest economies, we must not only lead the development of China-US relations down the correct path, but also shoulder our international responsibilities and make efforts for world peace and tranquillity,” Xi is reported to have said on the video call.

“The world is neither peaceful nor tranquil,” Xi acknowledged. “The Ukraine crisis is something we don't want to see.”

10:21 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

"Conflict not in anyone’s interest," Xi tells Biden

From CNN’s Beijing Bureau

Conflict and confrontation is not in anyone’s interest, Chinese President Xi Jinping said to US President Joe Biden on a video call Friday morning, according to Chinese state media.

“State-to-state relations cannot go to the stage of military confrontation. Conflict and confrontation are not in the interests of anyone. Peace and security are the most cherished treasures of the international community,” CCTV quoted Xi as saying on the call.

Some context: The call between the two world leaders started at 9:03 a.m on Friday. It is their first known discussion in months, the White House said Thursday.

It comes days after a US diplomatic cable suggested China has expressed some openness to providing Russia with requested military and financial assistance as part of its war on Ukraine. It is not yet clear whether China intends to provide Russia with that assistance, US officials familiar with the intelligence told CNN earlier this week.

"This is part of our ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication between the United States and the PRC," Psaki had said, using the abbreviation for the People's Republic of China.

9:37 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

5 reasons the Biden-Xi call is so important

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

As the call between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping gets underway, here's why it's important amid all the ongoing flurry of telephone diplomacy.

  1. It comes at a critical moment in the Russia-Ukraine war: According to US officials, China is weighing whether to provide military or financial assistance to Russia, which has requested it as its military sustains major losses in Ukraine. If China agrees, it could dampen its relationship with the West for decades to come.
  2. China could provide Russia with a range of support: On their phone call, Biden hopes to make clear to Xi the downsides of assisting Russia's war, either through military or financial assistance.
  3. US must manage a "cold-blooded" partnership: Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, US officials were watching warily as Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Xi grew closer. CIA Director Bill Burns said last week the partnership was rooted in "a lot of very cold-blooded reasons." Since then, the partnership without limits has been tested as Xi weighs how to respond to Russia's war in Ukraine.
  4. American allies in Asia are watching closely: Russia's invasion has sent ripples of anxiety across the world. One place watching closely is Taiwan, the self-governing island claimed by China. Beijing has recently stepped-up military flights close to the island and warned against American support.
  5. Biden and Xi have very different worldviews: Before the conflict in Ukraine, Biden appeared intent on refocusing American foreign policy toward Asia, where he views the competition between the US and China as a defining challenge of the next century. And while the Ukraine crisis has preoccupied the White House in recent weeks, officials insist they are still able to maintain their overriding vision.

Read more:

9:30 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Call between Biden and Xi has started

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

US President Joe Biden’s secure video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping started at 9:03 a.m. ET, a White House official said.

Chinese state media outlet CCTV also reported the call between the two world leaders was underway.

9:44 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Russian state TV confirms death of regional airborne forces commander in Ukraine

From CNN's Chris Liakos

At least five Russian servicemen, including the commander of the Kostroma airborne forces, died in battle in Ukraine, Russian regional state TV network GTRK Kostroma reported Thursday.

During the special operation in Ukraine, according to the Regional Military Commissariat as cited by GTRK Kostroma, servicemen of the 331st Guards Airborne Regiment “gave their lives for the security of [Russia]."

Among those dead are the commander of the unit, Col. Sergei Sukharev, Senior Sgt. Sergei Lebedev, Sgt. Alexander Limonov, Corporal Yuri Dektyarev and Captain Alexei Nikitin.

Some background: The 331st Guards Airborne Regiment is considered one of Russia’s elite units. The regiment fought in both Chechen wars and some of its members were directly involved in the Donbas conflict in 2014 to 2015. It took part in the Victory Day parade in Red Square in May 2018.

9:05 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Here's a look at Kyiv in pictures

A new shelling in Kyiv on Friday damaged a residential building, killing one person, according to Ukirainian authorities. A school and playground were also hit.

Here's how some areas of Kyiv look now, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues:

A destroyed apartment building in a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18.
A destroyed apartment building in a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. (Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

An injured woman receives treatment after shelling in a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18.
An injured woman receives treatment after shelling in a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

A picture shows a five-storey residential building that partially collapsed after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18.
A picture shows a five-storey residential building that partially collapsed after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman cries before starting to clean the site where a bombing damaged residential buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18.
A woman cries before starting to clean the site where a bombing damaged residential buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Ukranian servicemen stand beside a damaged building at a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18.
Ukranian servicemen stand beside a damaged building at a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

8:48 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

UK revokes broadcasting license of Russian state-funded propaganda network RT

The United Kingdom on Friday revoked the broadcasting license of the Kremlin-backed propaganda network RT, according to a statement from regulators.

The statement from regulator Ofcom said its investigation into RT had found its licensee, ANO TV Novosti, was not fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast license.

"RT is funded by the Russian state, which has recently invaded a neighbouring sovereign country," the statement said. "We also note new laws in Russia which effectively criminalise any independent journalism that departs from the Russian state’s own news narrative, in particular in relation to the invasion of Ukraine. We consider that given these constraints it appears impossible for RT to comply with the due impartiality rules of our Broadcasting Code in the circumstances," the statement said.

RT was taken off the air in the UK two weeks ago after the country and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow denounced this decision and said it is part of “the anti-Russian madness that is happening in Europe and the US” and another step to “grossly restrict freedom of speech.”

“I have no doubt, RT will continue to share its voice and its point of view to those who want to see and hear it,” Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters. 

Here's what it's like to spend a whole day watching RT:

8:40 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Officials unable to provide update on Mariupol theater survivors

From CNN's Andrew Carey

The damage is shown after the bombing of the theater in Mariupol on March 16.
The damage is shown after the bombing of the theater in Mariupol on March 16. (Ukraine Azov Battalion/Eyepress/Reuters)

Officials from the Donetsk region and Kyiv said Friday they had no further update on how many people survived an attack on a Mariupol theater that was being used as a shelter.

Donetsk regional head Pavlo Kyrylenko said he would not be commenting until he had received official reports.

Ukraine’s human rights commissioner Liudmyla Denisova said there was no update on figures released Thursday, which reported 130 people rescued from a total of 1,300 people believed to have been sheltering in the building.

“We are praying for them to be alive, but as of now we don't have any information,” she said.

Some context: Hundreds of people were thought to have taken shelter in the theater in Mariupol amid the ongoing Russian siege of the city. Russian forces have bombarded the coastal city for weeks, trapping hundreds of thousands of people. Ukrainian officials estimate 2,500 civilians have died in the fighting.