Ukrainian forces are now fighting to take back its territory, senior US defense official says
From CNN's Michael Conte
Ukrainians forces have now been trying to take back territory in the last few days that the Russians had gained, according to a senior US defense official, calling them “able and willing” to do so.
The official cited the examples of Ukrainians fighting to take back Kherson, as well as pushing Russian forces from the northeast of Mykolaiv to have to reposition south of the city.
The official cautioned that the US cannot say whether these moves are part of a “larger operational plan” by the Ukrainians or not.
The Ukrainian defense has been “nimble” and “agile,” according to the official.
12:01 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022
Macron considers food vouchers for middle- and low-income households as prices rise due to war
From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Anaëlle Jonah in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday he is considering issuing vouchers to help middle and low-income families facing rising food prices made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We will be facing a world-wide food crisis,” Macron said in an interview with France Bleu radio on Tuesday. “I want to put in place a food voucher [system] to help the most modest households and the middle class facing these additional costs.”
The proposed food vouchers would be similar to the country’s current system of energy vouchers which, among other things, helps pay the electricity and gas bills of roughly 5.8 million low-income households every year, according to data from the French Finance Ministry.
Macron reiterated that France and Europe need to eventually achieve food independence, a key element of his re-election campaign agenda.
The first round of voting for France’s presidential election is scheduled to take place on April 10.
Some background: The Ukrainian government has banned exports on key agricultural goods, including wheat, corn, grains, salt and meat.
Ukraine is one of Europe’s largest suppliers of agricultural produce, per data from the European Commission. Combined, Russia and Ukraine are responsible for almost 30% of global wheat exports, according to Gro Intelligence, an agricultural data analytics firm.
Macron has previously said that both Europe and Africa "will be very profoundly destabilized in food supplies."
11:16 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022
US State Department and St. Jude transport 4 Ukrainian child cancer patients to US for treatment
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
The US State Department coordinated with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to transport four Ukrainian children with cancer to the United States for treatment, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
The children were airlifted from Poland – where the US relocated its diplomats from Ukraine – “to Memphis International Airport, where they were met and transported to St. Jude,” Price said.
“There, the patients will be able to safely resume critical cancer therapy disrupted by the Kremlin’s aggression. They will receive the specialized care they desperately need, and their family members will be afforded sustenance, security, and support from St. Jude,” he said.
Price said they recognize that the four children “represent a small proportion of the thousands of patients whose cancer treatment has been interrupted and, who, even amid a pandemic and with compromised immune systems, were forced to flee their homes.”
“That is why, together with our allies and partners, we will continue to support our Ukrainian partners as we seek to save lives and bring this needless war to a close,” he said.
8:46 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022
Ukrainian photojournalist is missing in the Kyiv region, according to his friend
From Olga Voitovych in Lviv
Renowned Ukrainian photojournalist Max Levin has disappeared on the front line near Kyiv, according to a statement from a friend of Levin, Markiian Lyseiko.
“His last communication took place on March 13th from the Vyshgorod district, near Kyiv. He was working as a photographer at the time, traveling by car. He was stopped near the village Guta Mezhigirska, on his way to another village, Motzhun. The last communication from his mobile phone was at 11:23 on that day, after which point communication with him ceased.”
“Later, we discovered there had been intensive fighting in the areas, and it is assumed that he may have been injured or captured by Russian troops,” Lyseiko’s statement added.
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
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.”
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.
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 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
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.