March 20, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Steve George, Ben Church, Luke McGee, Ed Upright, Maureen Chowdhury, Joe Ruiz, Mike Hayes and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, March 21, 2022
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10:29 a.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Zelensky says on CNN that Ukraine cannot compromise its "territorial integrity"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksky said there are "compromises" that Ukraine cannot make in negotiations with Putin.

Zelensky was asked by CNN's Fareed Zakaria about the Russian demands — including that they recognize that Crimea is part of Russia, the two republics in the Donbas are independent republics, and they guarantee that Ukraine will never be a member of NATO. He said, "There are compromises for which we cannot be ready as an independent state." 

Zelensky continued: "Any compromises related to our territorial integrity and our sovereignty and the Ukrainian people have spoken about it, they have not greeted Russian soldiers with a bunch of flowers, they have greeted them with bravery, they have greeted them with weapons in their hands." 

Zelensky said that Russia "cannot curry favor with the citizens of another country forcibly." 

"You cannot just make a president of another country to recognize anything by the use of force," he added. 

Some more context: In his interview with CNN, Zelensky said he is ready to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but warned that if any negotiation attempts fail, it could mean the fight between the two countries would lead to "a third World War."

“I’m ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war,” Zelensky told Zakaria in an exclusive interview Sunday morning.

12:34 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Zelensky: "My children know for sure what is happening"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with CNN on Sunday, March 20. 
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with CNN on Sunday, March 20.  (CNN)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that his children are aware of the realities of war in Ukraine, despite him not overtly telling them about it initially.

"My children know for sure what is happening. I do not know whether it's good or bad. I have not explained anything to my children. They have said to me war is raging in Ukraine," Zelensky said.

He added, "Fortunately, we do not have to explain anything to our children. Fortunately, they have access to videos and news. I see to it that their access to these videos is open, they have access to it. I think that my children should not be prohibited from seeing any kind of videos of what Russia has made. My son has to be aware of it because while my son is alive that means that some Ukrainian army member is giving up his own life for this."

Zelensky has two children, a son and a daughter with this wife Olena Zelenska.

"The first two days, we did not talk about it at all. They did not ask questions. They were thinking about it themselves," Zelensky explained.

He said that his children have hope for victory for Ukraine, "They are proud of Ukraine, very proud. They entertain a sincere hope in our victory."

WATCH:

10:03 a.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Russia will feel more consequences if they use chemical weapons in Ukraine, US Ambassador to UN says

CNN's Chandelis Duster

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks with CNN on Sunday.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks with CNN on Sunday. (CNN)

Russia will face more consequences from the US if it uses chemical weapons in it’s invasion of Ukraine, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Sunday.

“What we see happening is, again, this is a false flag effort by the Russians. They are advancing what they might intend to do. We've seen it happen before. They are the ones who have used chemical weapons ... And we are concerned that they may use chemical weapons in Ukraine," Thomas-Greenfield told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."

She continued, “We've been clear if they escalate to this level, we will respond aggressively to what they are doing. You've seen the consequences so far of our actions against Russia and against Putin, and they are feeling those consequences. And they will feel more if they take this unfortunate decision to use chemical weapons.”

The US and NATO has advised that Russia may use chemical weapons or create a “false flag” operation where they are used in its attack against Ukraine. Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden also warned Russia “will pay a severe price if they use chemicals.”

The US previously found that the Russian government used chemical weapons in the 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and in 2018 against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in England. Both determinations led to sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, which requires the President to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions if a country is found to have used chemical weapons.

The US has also said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is supported by Russia, has used chemical weapons on its people dozens of times during the war there.

10:07 a.m. ET, March 20, 2022

10 million people have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine, UN commissioner says

From CNN's Chris Liakos

Citizens evacuate Mariupol, Ukraine, on Sunday, March 20.
Citizens evacuate Mariupol, Ukraine, on Sunday, March 20. (Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

10 million people have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Sunday.

“Among the responsibilities of those who wage war, everywhere in the world, is the suffering inflicted on civilians who are forced to flee their homes. The war in Ukraine is so devastating that 10 million have fled — either displaced inside the country, or as refugees abroad,” Grandi said on Twitter.

According to figures provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Friday, 6.48 million people have been internally displaced as of March 16.

See the tweet:

 

9:22 a.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Zelensky: "I'm ready for negotiations" with Putin, but if they fail, it could mean "a third World War"

From CNN's Chandelis Duster

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with CNN on Sunday, March 20. 
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with CNN on Sunday, March 20.  (CNN)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday he is ready to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but warned that if any negotiation attempts fail, it could mean the fight between the two countries would lead to "a third World War."

“I’m ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an exclusive interview Sunday morning.

“If there’s just 1% chance for us to stop this war, I think that we need to take this chance. We need to do that. I can tell you about the result of this negotiations — in any case, we are losing people on a daily basis, innocent people on the ground," he said.

He continued, “Russian forces have come to exterminate us, to kill us. And we can demonstrate that the dignity of our people and our army that we are able to deal a powerful blow, we are able to strike back. But, unfortunately, our dignity is not going to preserve the lives. So, I think we have to use any format, any chance in order to have a possibility of negotiating, possibility of talking to Putin. But if these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a third World War.”

8:59 a.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Mariupol struggling to learn more about art school bombing

From CNN staff

An advisor to Mariupol’s mayor said in an update on the art school that was bombed by Russian forces in the last hours that city officials are struggling to learn more about how many people were hiding in the school that was acting as a shelter.

Petro Andrushenko wrote on social media: 

“So far, there is no exact operational data on how many people were hiding in the shelter or the number of casualties. I expect we will have it later today. But the situation is difficult and there is nowhere to get the data from.” 

An earlier estimate from the city council put the number sheltering in the school building at 400. 

The information black hole reflects a similar lack of clarity about how many people survived an attack five days ago on a theatre in Mariupol that was also being used as a shelter, possibly for up to 1,300 people. 

The number of people reported having survived – put at 130 - has been unchanged for several days. 

Fighting continued Sunday for control of the port city in southeastern Ukraine that has become a focus of Russia’s assault on the country. 

“The city continues to be shelled both from the sky and the sea,” Andrushenko wrote on his Telegram channel.  

“It seems the occupiers are so eager to wipe out Mariupol that they are ready to cover themselves with fire.” 

He also said people trying to flee the city in their cars were being shot at by Russian forces.  

“Evacuation is difficult - difficult but moving. The Russians are doing everything to complicate things. Last night, cars trying to drive towards the village of Melekine [10 kilometers west of the city center] were fired upon.” 

Other residents looking to flee were having their cars seized from them at a checkpoint just outside Mariupol, he said. 

Despite the dangers, Ukraine’s government announced the humanitarian corridor linking Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, outside Russian-occupied territory, had been agreed for Sunday.  

A council official reported that a column of eleven buses carrying almost 800 people had completed the second part of the journey, from Berdiansk to Zaporozhzhia, by midday Sunday. 

8:44 a.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Ukraine war is "a senseless massacre," Pope Francis says

From CNN’s Nicola Rutuolo in Rome

Pope Francis speaks from his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, on Sunday, March 20.
Pope Francis speaks from his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, on Sunday, March 20. (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Pope Francis called the war in Ukraine “a senseless massacre, where havoc and atrocities are repeated every day,” in his weekly Sunday address and blessing.

“I beg all the actors of the international community to make a real effort to put an end to this repugnant war,” the head of the Catholic Church told the crowd in St Peter’s Square after his Angelus Prayer.

“This week, missiles and bombs hit civilians, the elderly, children and pregnant mothers,” Pope Francis said, adding he visited injured children treated in Rome. “One of them is missing an arm, another one wounded in the head, innocent children,” the Pope said.

“Let us stay close to this battered people, embrace them with affection and with concrete commitment and prayer, and please do not get used to war and violence,” he added.

Pope Francis invited “every faithful and every community” to join him on March 25, the day of the Christian Annunciation, “in carrying out a solemn act of consecration of humanity, especially of Russia and Ukraine.”

“All this is inhumane, indeed it is also sacrilegious because it goes against the sacredness of human life. Especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and which comes before any strategy, let's not forget, it is cruel, inhuman and sacrilegious,” he concluded.

10:18 a.m. ET, March 20, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Residents walk past debris and damaged buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18.
Residents walk past debris and damaged buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18. (Stringer/Reuters)

An art school being used as a shelter in the besieged city of Mariupol has been bombed by Russian forces, according to Mariupol city council in a statement on its Telegram channel.

About 400 people were sheltering in the building, which was destroyed in the attack, the council said. Information on casualties is still unclear but people remain trapped under the rubble.

It’s Sunday afternoon in Ukraine. Here are more of today's latest developments around the conflict:

  • Ukraine claims death of general: Ukrainian officials say that another Russian commander has died during fighting, which they say would be the fifth Russian general to have been killed since the invasion on February 24. Gen. Oleg Mityaev, of Russia's 150th Motorized Rifle Division, and members of his unit were killed by Ukrainian forces near Mariupol last week, according to a Telegram post shared by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister. CNN cannot independently verify the Ukrainian claims.
  • Russia claims use of hypersonic missiles: The Russian military claimed on Sunday that it had launched a series of strikes on military targets in Ukraine employing hypersonic and cruise missiles on Saturday night and Sunday morning. US officials have also confirmed to CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against Ukraine last week, the first known use of such missiles in combat.
  • No air superiority: Britain's military said Russian forces have still not managed to gain control over Ukraine's airspace. An intelligence assessment provided by the UK's Ministry of Defense said Russia has failed to gain air superiority and is largely depending on stand-off weapons, “launched from the relative safety of Russian airspace to strike targets within Ukraine.”
  • Australia announces aid: Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced additional military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, while also imposing an immediate ban on exports of alumina and aluminium ore to Russia. The package brings Australia’s total military assistance so far to A$91 million (US $66.3 million), the statement said.
  • Forced to go to Russia: Citizens of the battered city of Mariupol are being taken to Russian territory against their will by Russian forces, according to the Mariupol city council. Captured residents were taken to camps where Russian forces checked their phones and documents, the council said. They were then redirected to remote Russian cities. Mariupol is under almost constant bombardment, according to a major in Ukraine's army, and residents are rationing food and water as bodies are left in the streets. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said what Russian forces have done to Mariupol is an "act of terror that will be remembered for centuries."
8:32 a.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Millions of children displaced by Russia's war in Ukraine, say UNICEF

From CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq in Lviv

Ukrainian children hold toys while they wait at the Przemysl train station in Poland on March 19.
Ukrainian children hold toys while they wait at the Przemysl train station in Poland on March 19. (Victoria Jones/PA Images/Getty Images)

At least 1.5 million children have been made refugees by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, UNICEF spokesperson Joe English told CNN Sunday.

A further 3.3 million minors are currently displaced within the country, English told CNN’s Hala Gorani.

Each of these is an individual child whose life has been torn apart, whose world has been turned upside down," English said.

At least 150 children have been killed and 160 injured since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, according to the UN agency.