March 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Travis Caldwell, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Sana Noor Haq, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Kathryn Snowdon and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, March 23, 2022
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10:35 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Food and medical supplies in Kherson have almost run out, Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson says

From Alex Hardie in London

Food and medical supplies have almost run out in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, according to spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Oleg Nikolenko. 

In a tweet on Tuesday, Nikolenko said that “Kherson’s 300k citizens face a humanitarian catastrophe owing to the Russian army’s blockade.”

The city has been occupied by Russian forces for about two weeks.

Nikolenko said that Russia is refusing to open evacuation corridors for civilians to get out. He called for “Russia’s barbaric tactics” to be “stopped before it is too late.” 


7:47 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Belarus could "soon" join war in Ukraine, US and NATO officials say

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Jennifer Hansler, Jim Sciutto and CNN staff in Kyiv

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, left, shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a press conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on February 18.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, left, shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a press conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on February 18. (Sergei Guneyev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

The US and NATO believe that Belarus could “soon” join Russia in its war against Ukraine, US and NATO officials tell CNN, and that the country is already taking steps to do so. 

It is increasingly “likely” that Belarus will enter the conflict, a NATO military official said on Monday. 

“Putin needs support. Anything would help,” the official explained. 

A Belarusian opposition source said that Belarusian combat units are ready to go into Ukraine as soon as the next few days, with thousands of forces prepared to deploy. In this source’s view, this will have less of an impact militarily than it will geopolitically, given the implications of another country joining the war.

A senior NATO intelligence official said separately the alliance assesses that the Belarusian government “is preparing the environment to justify a Belarusian offensive against Ukraine.”

Belarusians voted last month to allow the country to host both Russian forces and nuclear weapons permanently, though US officials have emphasized to CNN that they have not yet seen any evidence of Russia moving nuclear weapons or preparing to.  

Western leaders said they would not recognize the legitimacy of the vote in Belarus. In a statement from January, the US mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) described the referendum as “neither a viable — nor credible — path forward for Belarus.”

The vote followed a years-long violent crackdown by the Moscow-backed Lukashenko regime against his domestic political opponents, following the disputed presidential election in 2020 which was marred by fraud and triggered mass protests

The sources emphasized that there have been no indications to date that Belarus is currently participating in the fighting in Ukraine, and a senior US defense official said the Pentagon had not seen “any indications that the Belarusians are preparing to move in — into Ukraine or that they have made any agreements to do that.”

The NATO military official said that a final decision for Belarus’ involvement in the war still has to be made in Moscow, and as of yet, there has been no indication that Belarusian forces are participating in the fighting in Ukraine.

"It is not about what [Alexander] Lukashenko wants," the official explained, referring to the Belarusian president. "The question is: Does Putin want another unstable country in the region?" 

"Involvement would destabilize Belarus," the official said.

The official wouldn't elaborate on how Belarus could intervene in the war, but said it made sense for Russia to try and cut off NATO military aid coming into Ukraine from its Western border.

More background: Russia has been using Belarus as a springboard for many of its air operations in Ukraine, according to intelligence collected by NATO surveillance planes flying over the Polish-Ukrainian border and radar seen by CNN.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed reporting to this post.

10:19 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022

UN secretary general calls for end to "absurd war" that is becoming "more unpredictable by the hour"

From CNN's Richard Roth and Kristina Sgueglia

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres briefs the press on the war in Ukraine at UN Headquarters in New York on March 14.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres briefs the press on the war in Ukraine at UN Headquarters in New York on March 14. (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for an end to the “absurd war” brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is causing “appalling human suffering” that has been “intensifying” and becoming “more unpredictable by the hour.”

Guterres called the war “un-winnable” and urged for serious negotiation in a briefing from a stakeout podium at UN headquarters in New York City Tuesday.

“From my outreach with various actors, elements of diplomatic progress are coming into view on several key issues,” he said. 

But as millions of Ukrainians have been forced from their home, he said the “war is going nowhere fast.”

“Even if Mariupol falls, Ukraine cannot be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house,” he said.

“There is enough on the table to cease hostilities now … and seriously negotiate now,” he continued.

Guterres said “the Ukrainian people are enduring a living hell,” and that — particularly for developing countries already feeling the chokehold of Covid-19 recovery — “reverberations are being felt worldwide with skyrocketing food, energy and fertilizer prices threatening to spiral into a global hunger crisis.”

“How many Ukrainians and Russians will be killed before everyone realizes that this war has no winners — only losers?” he asked.

9:38 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Zelensky to Italy: Do not be a holiday resort for those promoting the war

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London and Hada Messia in Rome

Members of the Italian Parliament and government listen to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during his virtual address to the parliament in Rome, Italy on March 22,
Members of the Italian Parliament and government listen to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during his virtual address to the parliament in Rome, Italy on March 22, (Remo Casilli/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday urged "more sanctions, more pressure" against Russia as the war keeps on ravaging Ukraine.

"Ukraine to Russian forces is the wall that separates them from Europe. But barbarians must not pass," Zelensky told Italian lawmakers Tuesday during virtual address.

"We need more sanctions, more pressure so that Russia looks not for reserves of mercenaries in Libya, but so that Russia looks for peace, so that that one man seeks peace," he added.

The Russian invasion "will ruin more lives, more families, and the full scale war will continue. Unfortunately, Russian missiles artillery is not stopping the bombing of our cities, all of the some of them have been almost destroyed completely," he said, adding that in Mariupol there is nothing left, "just ruins like armageddon."

"You know who brought war to Ukraine you know them very well. You know who is ordering war and who is promoting it. Almost all of them use Italy as a holiday resort. So do not be a resort for them. Block their properties, seize their accounts, their yachts from Scheherazade to the smallest one."

9:38 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Netherlands freezes $431 million in Russian assets

From CNN's Benjamin Brown in London

The Netherlands has frozen nearly 392 million euros ($431.44 million) in Russian assets, the Dutch Ministry of Finance told parliament in a letter seen by CNN.

As of Tuesday, 391,944,031 million euros had been frozen, with the ministry saying that further asset freezes were expected.

More on sanctions: Countries around the world have imposed sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

See a list of global sanctions on Russia here.

8:49 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Ukraine government adviser tells CNN there's a chance "Putin's power will be limited by his own people"

From CNN's Hala Gorani and Mohammed Tawfeeq in Lviv

Liubov Tsybulska, adviser to Ukraine’s government and military, said there's a chance "Putin's power will be limited by his own people."

Speaking from Warsaw, Poland about whether there’s potential for a Russian exit from Ukraine, Tsybulska told CNN: "I think that the best-case scenario is if something happens in Russia, we know that there's a division between Russian elites ... people within their government understand that this war is going to bring Russia to collapse."

"So, of course, we expect they will do something in Russia. We cannot expect that having the support of the war, people go and protest and, you know, make basically a revolution. But there are some chances that Putin's power will be limited by his own people."

Speaking of Russia's offensive and the resistance forces are facing, Tsybulska said: "They are trying to take cities, but they cannot enter and take control over Ukrainian cities. They did it in Kherson, but people keep protesting, people keep resisting, and basically, Russians don't know what to do with that and the same thing with Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Kyiv."

"They can shell and kill civilians, but they cannot control the cities," Tsybulska said. Tsybulska said Putin's "ultimate goal" is Kyiv, adding "it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to take the city."

"But of course, Russia wants to frighten civilians, and they want to spread panic among civilians and demoralization and basically reduce the support for the Ukrainian army from the Ukrainian population," Tsybulska added.

8:33 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Large explosion heard in Kyiv while city remains under curfew

From CNN staff in Kyiv

Several loud explosions could be heard in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday while the city was under a 35-hour curfew. 

One of the blasts was so strong it set off car alarms in the city center, a CNN team witnessed.

Ukrainian interior ministry advisor Anton Gerashchenko said Ukrainian air defenses had engaged and destroyed a Russia Tochka-U missile and that remains of the projectile had fallen in the Dniper river.

Shelling and small arms fire could also be heard intermittently over the past couple of hours.

Kyiv is currently under a curfew announced by the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko on Monday. In a statement on Telegram, Klitschko said the curfew would begin Monday at 8:00 p.m and last until 7:00am on Wednesday.

"Shops, pharmacies, gas stations, institutions will not work tomorrow," he said. "Therefore, I ask everyone to stay at home or in shelters - at sound of an alarm. Only those with special permits will be able to move around the city."

8:19 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Ukrainian President Zelensky talked to Pope Francis about the war in Ukraine 

From Hada Messia in Rome and Sharon Braithwaite in London

Members of the Italian Parliament and government listen to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during his virtual address to the parliament in Rome, Italy, on March 22.
Members of the Italian Parliament and government listen to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during his virtual address to the parliament in Rome, Italy, on March 22. (Remo Casilli/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Pope Francis talked over the phone on Tuesday about the war, Zelensky told Italian lawmakers on Tuesday.

"Today I spoke with his Holiness Pope Francis, and he said very important words: 'I understand that you want peace. I understand that you have to defend yourselves, that soldiers defend civilians, they defend their homeland. Everyone is defending it,'" Zelensky said in an address to Italian Parliament.

"And I answered: 'Our people have become the army, when they saw how much evil the enemy brings, how much devastation it brings, and how much bloodshed it (Russia) wants to see,'" the president said. 

Zelensky said that 117 children have died so far during the war, calling it "the price of procrastination" of other countries in stopping the war.

Zelensky told the Pope "about the difficult humanitarian situation and the blocking of rescue corridors by Russian troops," he tweeted. 

"The mediating role of the Holy See in ending human suffering would be appreciated," Zelensky added.

In a tweet, Ukraine's Ambassador to the Vatican Andriy Yurash said the pair had "very promising" talks. 

Yurash also said that the Pope " is the most expected guest in Ukraine."

8:21 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Some towns in Ukraine don't have more than 3-4 days' worth of food, according to aid agency

From CNN’s Antonia Mortensen

Some towns in Ukraine don’t have more than three or four days’ worth of food, the aid agency Mercy Corps said Tuesday, warning that the humanitarian system in the country “is entirely broken down.”

“One of our biggest concerns right now is the vulnerability of the supply chain. We know that most municipalities in areas seeing the most intense fighting don’t have more than three to four days’ worth of essentials like food,” said Mercy Corps’ Ukraine humanitarian response adviser Steve Gordon, who is in Kharkiv, the site of some of the heaviest fighting since the Russian invasion.

At least 70% of the population of Kharkiv and Sumy is entirely dependent on aid, he estimated.

“These are areas like Sumy, with 800,000 people nearly entirely reliant right now on aid shipped in on a day-to-day basis. Cities need at least a month’s worth of food, stored in different warehouses in case they come under fire,” Gordon said.

“The reality is that right now the humanitarian system is entirely broken down. We are not seeing a high-functioning, coordinated international aid effort covering the whole of Ukraine like we often see in other conflict zones,” he said. “While the United Nations is getting aid into some areas, we’ve seen through the failure of humanitarian corridors that many people are only surviving through support from small Ukrainian civil society organization like church groups, which are coordinating essential deliveries such as food and medical supplies. These amazing volunteer networks are working as hard as they can but they are stretched to the max.”