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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12:11 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Ukrainian gains near Kyiv threaten to cut off Russian units 

From CNN's Tim Lister, Paul Murphy, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Katie Polglase and Eoin McSweeney 

A Ukrainian counterattack north and west of the capital of Kyiv appears to have made some headway, jeopardizing Russian efforts to encircle the city and threatening the ability of Russian forces to resupply the forward units that are exposed to the north of the city.   

Videos geolocated Monday show Ukrainian soldiers draping the national flag over a building in the town of Makariv, some 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Kyiv.  

Then, early Tuesday, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a post on social media that they had regained control of Makariv.  

Following 24 hours of fighting, the “state flag of Ukraine was raised over the city of Makariv” as the Russians retreated, the Armed Forces said on Facebook. 

The town is strategically placed due west of Kyiv.     

The head of Kyiv’s regional police, Andriy Nebytov, toured Makariv on Monday. A video of his visit showed widespread devastation and the town appeared deserted.

Nebytov said Makariv was still being shelled, indicating the immediate area is still contested. He was told by another officer during the tour that artillery fire was coming from five kilometers (three miles) to the north, an area still held by the Russians.   

"Makariv is still under fire," he said. "Every second civilian building, private houses, have been destroyed, damaged by artillery shelling."

"There are almost no people in the city," Nebytov said on the video. "There are no residents, no one to take away." 

At one point, Nebytov passed a memorial to villagers "who gave their lives for the Soviet Motherland, in 1941-1945,” as he put it. “So there you are, those people died in a battle against fascism, Nazism. Now history is repeating itself." 

12:19 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Half a million Ukrainian refugees need mental health support, WHO says 

From CNN’s Benjamin Brown in London 

Mental health service area at a Warsaw reception center for Ukrainian refugees in Poland on March 15.
Mental health service area at a Warsaw reception center for Ukrainian refugees in Poland on March 15. (Hesther Ng/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

About half a million refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine to Poland require support for mental health disorders, and 30,000 are estimated to have severe mental health problems, the World Health Organization’s representative in Poland, Paloma Cuchi, said Tuesday.  

The WHO said its assessment is based on estimates for mental health conditions following armed conflicts. 

Aside from mental and emotional distress, the main problems faced by refugees from Ukraine in reception centers include fever, diarrhea, hypothermia, upper-respiratory tract infections and cardiac arrest, according to the WHO

On Tuesday, the WHO reported that there have now been 62 verified attacks on health care sites in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in late February.  

“This is unacceptable,” the agency tweeted on Sunday. “Health care must always be protected.”  

11:57 a.m. ET, March 22, 2022

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

Customers shop at a supermarket in Hyeres, France on March 17.
Customers shop at a supermarket in Hyeres, France on March 17. (Serge Tenani/Hans Lucas/Reuters)

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

Ukrainian photojournalist Max Levin poses for a photo in the Donetsk region in Ukraine on Jan. 12, 2018. The UNIAN news agency reported Tuesday March 22, that Levin has been unaccounted since March 13.
Ukrainian photojournalist Max Levin poses for a photo in the Donetsk region in Ukraine on Jan. 12, 2018. The UNIAN news agency reported Tuesday March 22, that Levin has been unaccounted since March 13. (Inna Varenytsia/AP)

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

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.