March 23, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Seán Federico O'Murchú, George Ramsay, Hafsa Khalil, Adrienne Vogt and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, March 24, 2022
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8:19 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Zelensky tells Russians: "Save your sons from the war"

From CNN's Hira Humayun

(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky)
(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky)

In a video message posted to Facebook Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Russians and told them, "save your sons from the war."

Zelensky said Ukraine had never threatened the security of Russia, adding that Russian propagandists "lie about the war, which is paid for by your taxes."

Ukrainians, he said, are doing everything they can to bring peace back to their land.

"Not to yours — to our land. To our people. We are doing everything to end this war. And when we succeed, it will certainly happen, you will be sure of at least one thing: your children will no longer be sent to die on our land, on our territory," he said.

The Ukrainian President said Russia's original plan "already failed" in the first two days of the invasion but Russia is still "getting manpower from everywhere." 

"Equipment. Air bombs, missiles. Looking for mercenaries around the world. Any scum capable of shooting at civilians," Zelensky said.
"Russian troops destroy our cities. Kill civilians indiscriminately. Rape women. Abduct children. Shoot at refugees. Capture humanitarian convoys. They are engaged in looting. They burn museums, blow up schools and hospitals. The target for them is universities, residential neighborhoods ... Anything! Russian troops do not know the limits of evil."

Key talks: Zelensky referred to three upcoming meetings with world leaders — the NATO Summit, EU Summit and G7 Summit — and said politicians need to support freedom for Ukraine.

"At these three summits we will see who is a friend, who is a partner, and who betrayed us for money," he said.

The President repeated his requests for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying the Ukrainian sky has not been made safe from Russian bombs and Kyiv has not received aircraft, modern anti-missile weapons or tanks. 

7:51 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Russian journalist killed in Kyiv shelling incident

By Uliana Pavlova and Brian Stelter

Oksana Baulina speaks after a live broadcast in Moscow in 2017.
Oksana Baulina speaks after a live broadcast in Moscow in 2017. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

A Russian journalist working for the independent news site The Insider was killed in a shelling incident in Kyiv, the outlet said in a statement on Wednesday.

Oksana Baulina had been filming the shelling destruction in the capital’s Podilskyi District by Russian troops when she came under rocket fire. Another civilian died with her, The Insider’s statement said. Two people accompanying her were also wounded and hospitalized.

Baulina went to Ukraine as a correspondent and filed “several reports” from Lviv and Kyiv, The Insider said.

“The Insider expresses its deepest condolences to Oksana’s family and friends,” the outlet said in the statement. “We will continue to cover the war in Ukraine, including such Russian war crimes as indiscriminate shelling of residential areas where civilians and journalists are killed.”

The Insider’s statement did not say when Baulina was killed. But soon after it was released, colleagues took to Twitter to mourn her death.

Read more here.

7:22 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Zelensky calls for worldwide demonstrations supporting Ukraine as Russian invasion hits the one-month mark

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai

President Volodymyr Zelensky is calling for worldwide demonstrations in support of Ukraine as the Russian invasion reaches the one-month mark.

The Ukrainian President made the remarks in a speech posted to Facebook Wednesday evening, with the goal of seeing demonstrations begin Thursday.

It breaks my heart, hearts of all Ukrainians and every free person on the planet. That's why I asked you to stand against the war starting from March 24, exactly one month after the Russian invasion. From this day and after that, show your standing, come from your offices, your homes, your schools and universities, come in the name of peace, come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine,” Zelensky pleaded.

Zelensky said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a war against freedom and that Russia aims to defeat the freedom of all of Europe and the world.

To support freedom, to support life. Come to your squares, your streets, make yourselves visible and heard. Say that people matter, freedom matters, peace matters, Ukraine matters,” Zelensky said. 

Zelensky urged the world to unite against Russia’s invasion, saying, “the war of Russia is not only the war against Ukraine, its meaning is much wider.” 

Watch Zelensky's speech below:

7:31 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

It's after 1 a.m. on Thursday in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

CNN teams on the ground witnessed a barrage of outgoing fire late Wednesday evening that occurred in northwest Kyiv.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior US defense official told reporters that Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian forces back on the frontlines east of Kyiv.

Russian forces are about 55 kilometers (roughly 34 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the east, an increase of between 25 and 35 kilometers (roughly 15 to 22 miles) as compared to the same location yesterday, the official said.

To the northwest of Kyiv’s city center, Russian forces are “digging in, and they are establishing defensive positions,” the official said. They have not gotten any closer to Kyiv’s city center along this line, the official added. They remain 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the northwest.

Here's more of the most recent headlines from the Ukraine-Russia conflict:

  • Russian-proposed draft resolution on the Ukraine humanitarian situation fails to pass in UN Security Council: A Russian-proposed draft resolution on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine failed to pass in the United Nations Security Council Wednesday evening. Two countries voted in favor, zero countries voted against, and 13 countries, including the United States, abstained from the vote. Nine votes in favor were required for the resolution to pass. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke ahead of the vote, stating that Russia was once again trying to use the Security Council to “provide cover for its brutal actions.”
  • Biden arrives in Brussels for high-stakes crisis talks: US President Joe Biden has arrived in Brussels for a set of emergency summits meant to address Russia's war in Ukraine. Air Force One landed at the Brussels airport at 9:03 p.m. local time after a roughly seven-hour flight from Washington. Biden is expected to be greeted by Belgium's prime minister at the airport. He begins intensive talks with NATO, the G7 and the European Union starting Thursday.
  • NATO’s thoughts turn to chemical weapons on the eve of extraordinary summit: The day before NATO’S extraordinary summit takes place in Brussels, multiple sources have told CNN that a significant amount of time on Thursday will be spent discussing how the alliance should respond if Vladimir Putin uses chemical or biological weapons against Ukrainian citizens. Multiple officials, who spoke on the condition of total anonymity, agreed that while the official NATO position that it will not get directly involved in this war will remain, chemical weapons could be a game-changer as such an escalation would likely prompt the public in NATO nations to demand action.
  • Russia to expel US diplomats and label American employees "persona non grata": Moscow announced it will expel US diplomats from Russia, according to a statement issued by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday. A senior diplomat from the US diplomatic mission in Moscow was handed a note on Wednesday with a list of expelled American diplomatic employees declared “persona non grata,” according to the statement. Persona non grata literally means “an unwelcome person.”
  • Up to 15,000 Russians have been killed in ongoing Ukraine invasion, senior NATO military officials estimate: Up to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in one month in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, two senior NATO military officials said. The officials made the estimate during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday. The officials specified the range could be as low as 7,000 or as high as 15,000 in total Russian soldiers killed in the conflict so far. Their estimate is based on what Ukraine is telling them, what they know from Russia “intentionally or by mistake” and from “open source” information, one of the officials said.
  • WHO reports 64 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine: The World Health Organization has confirmed 64 attacks on health facilities in Ukraine so far, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday. “WHO has now verified 64 attacks on health care since the start of the war, and we are in the process of verifying further attacks,” Tedros said in a media briefing. “Attacks on health must stop. Health systems, facilities, and health workers are not and should not, [ever] be a target,” he said.
  • Bill to ban Russian oil sent to the US Senate: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has sent a bill to ban importing Russian oil, natural gas, and coal to the US Senate, a source familiar tells CNN. The House passed the bill on March 9.
6:52 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

UK to announce "major" new military support package for Ukraine at NATO and G7 leaders’ meetings

From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Arnaud Siad

The United Kingdom is set to announce a “major new military support package” for Ukraine at Thursday's NATO and the G7 leaders’ meetings.

The support package will include 6,000 missiles, consisting of anti-tank and high explosive weapons, and £25 million (33 million $USD) in financial backing for the Ukrainian military, according to a Downing Street press release on Wednesday.

“This more than doubles the defensive lethal aid provided to date to more than 10,000 missiles, and comes on top of the £400 million (528 million $USD) the UK has committed in humanitarian and economic aid for the crisis,” the release read.

The UK will also provide an additional £4.1 (5.5 million $USD) for the BBC World Service “to tackle disinformation in Russia and Ukraine, as well as new financial and policing support for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into war crimes.”

“Vladimir Putin is already failing in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people have shown themselves to be extraordinarily brave and tenacious in defending their homeland, in the face of an unprovoked onslaught,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the release.

“But we cannot and will not stand by while Russia grinds Ukraine’s towns and cities into dust. The United Kingdom will work with our allies to step up military and economic support to Ukraine, strengthening their defenses as they turn the tide in this fight,” he added.

“One month into this crisis, the international community faces a choice. We can keep the flame of freedom alive in Ukraine, or risk it being snuffed out across Europe and the world”, Johnson said.

According to the Downing Street statement, the UK has “already provided over 4,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces, including Next-Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons Systems, or NLAWs, and Javelin missiles. The Government is also supplying Starstreak high-velocity anti-air missiles to help Ukrainians defend themselves against aerial bombings, as well as body armour, helmets and combat boots.”

6:28 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Barrage of outgoing fire witnessed in northwest Kyiv

From CNN’s Bex Wright, Ellie Kaufman and Jeremy Herb

(Bex Wright/CNN)
(Bex Wright/CNN)

CNN teams on the ground witnessed a barrage of outgoing fire late Wednesday evening that occurred in northwest Kyiv.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior US defense official told reporters that Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian forces back on the frontlines east of Kyiv.

Russian forces are about 55 kilometers (roughly 34 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the east, an increase of between 25 and 35 kilometers (roughly 15 to 22 miles) as compared to the same location yesterday, the official said.

To the northwest of Kyiv’s city center, Russian forces are “digging in, and they are establishing defensive positions,” the official said. They have not gotten any closer to Kyiv’s city center along this line, the official added. They remain 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the northwest.

6:07 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Renault suspends production at its Moscow facility

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris

French carmaker Renault announced in a statement Wednesday that it has suspended all activities at its Moscow factory. The announcement comes as Ukrainian leaders have called for a boycott against the company, accused Renault of “sponsoring Russia’s war machine.”

Just one day earlier, Renault had said it was resuming production for three days only.

Regarding its involvement in major Russian car manufacturer AvtoVAZ, owned by Renault, the French carmaker said that it’s “assessing the available options, taking into account the current environment, while acting responsibly towards its 45,000 employees in Russia.”

The also company said it is “already implementing the necessary measures to comply with international sanctions.”

AvtoVAZ’s brand Lada represented nearly 21% of the Russian market in 2021, according to Renault Group’s financial results.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called out major French companies, including Renault, by name for continuing their operations in Russia.

“Renault, Auchan, Leroy Merlin and others must stop being the sponsors of Russia’s war machine,” Zelensky said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba went further, calling for a global boycott of the carmaker.

“Renault refuses to pull out of Russia. Not that it should surprise anyone when Renault supports a brutal war of aggression in Europe,” Kuleba said in a tweet. “But mistakes must come with a price, especially when repeated. I call on customers and businesses around the globe to boycott Group Renault.”

Renault declined to comment when asked by CNN if the decision to suspend its activities at the Moscow factory is connected to the strong words from Ukrainian leaders.

Renault said in the statement that the value of its consolidated intangible assets, property, plant, equipment, and goodwill in Russia amounted to above $2.41 billion at the end of 2021.

5:53 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Russian-proposed draft resolution on the Ukraine humanitarian situation fails to pass in UN Security Council

From CNN’s Richard Roth and Laura Ly

A Russian-proposed draft resolution on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine failed to pass in the United Nations Security Council Wednesday evening.

Two countries voted in favor, zero countries voted against, and 13 countries, including the United States, abstained from the vote. Nine votes in favor were required for the resolution to pass.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke ahead of the vote, stating that Russia was once again trying to use the Security Council to “provide cover for its brutal actions.”

“It really is unconscionable that Russia would have the audacity to put forward a resolution asking the international community to solve a human crisis that Russia alone created,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “Russia does not care about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions, or the millions of lives and dreams the war has shattered. If they cared, they would stop fighting.”

The US ambassador added that Russia’s resolution “makes no mention of its role as the sole cause of this crisis. And our vote [of abstention] will show that we will play no part in that.”

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia also spoke ahead of the vote Wednesday evening, claiming that their draft resolution was “analogous to other draft humanitarian resolutions.”

7:30 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Top Estonian official says Russia must face "full defeat" in Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Ground personnel unload weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, sent by the US military at Boryspil Airport near Kyiv on January 25. Secretary General of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jonatan Vseviov says partner nations must continue to supply Ukrainian military with weaponry.
Ground personnel unload weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, sent by the US military at Boryspil Airport near Kyiv on January 25. Secretary General of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jonatan Vseviov says partner nations must continue to supply Ukrainian military with weaponry. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A top Estonian official on Wednesday called on the international community to do more to ensure a “full defeat” of Russia in Ukraine, saying that “anything short” of that “would be destabilizing and escalatory.”

“Frankly, I cannot see a way for the Russians to really win on the battlefield in the classical sense,” Secretary General of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jonatan Vseviov said in an interview with CNN in Washington, DC, ahead of the NATO Leaders Summit Thursday.

“The question is whether we will be able to actually defeat this aggression,” he said. “If Putin comes away from this aggression with some gains, then he's likely to attempt this again -- against Ukraine, against others, he's likely to move ahead. So he needs to be absolutely defeated.”

Vseviov also said NATO must prepare for the “new era” once the active phase of the war is over, calling for the military alliance to “build up military muscle in the east” to deny any future aggression.

He spoke of the need for NATO to make decisions about its defense posture for the “long haul,” telling CNN that such discussions will take place this week but he expects major decisions will not be made until the NATO Summit in June, noting that such decisions require detailed military planning.

“It's clear that we cannot just continue with NATO with business as usual, with the same approach to defense and deterrence, NATO's relations to Russia that we’ve had since the annexation of Crimea,” Vseviov said. 

He said the alliance cannot take the risk that Russia “will miscalculate regarding collective defense,” so a “small, tripwire force -- that international force that the Allies have had, for instance, in the Baltic states, is clearly no longer sufficient.”

Vseviov, a former Estonian ambassador to the US, met with key officials at the White House, Defense and State Department during his trip to Washington.

He said he could not predict how long the war will last, but said he believes the Ukrainian military will be able to hold on “for a long time,” but partner nations must continue to supply them with weaponry as the war wages on.

“The balance of military power clearly favors the aggressor, so we need to help the Ukrainians to hold on and do whatever is necessary to provide them with the relevant equipment and also humanitarian assistance,” Vseviov said, noting that it’s likely that “the level of brutality” unleashed by Russian forces against the civilian population “will go up dramatically” as the conflict continues. 

Vseviov expressed skepticism about any diplomatic solutions proposed by Moscow.

“I think talk of this potential breakthrough in negotiations is a Russian game of smoke and mirrors to trap us or our to dissuade us -- it's a diplomatic trap to dissuade us from additional sanctions and additional military assistance,” Vseviov said. 

“I will not believe any deal before I see it actually implemented on the ground. I think the Russian strategy has not changed. It is still to destroy Ukraine and the idea of a sovereign Ukraine and then move on to fundamentally alter European security architecture,” he added.