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March 24, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news
By Helen Regan, Seán Federico O'Murchú, George Ramsay, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Maureen Chowdhury, Meg Wagner and Jason Kurtz, CNN
Teen who escaped Mariupol: "You know that nowhere is safe"
Yuliia Karpenko, 17, and her family lived through winter without heat for weeks in their Mariupol home, taking shelter as the port city in southeastern Ukraine came under unrelenting fire by Russian forces.
Speaking from Berlin — where she recently escaped to with her mother — the teenager on Thursday described their life under Russia's assault.
"On March 2 they turned off everything but gas — and they turned off gas a few days later," she told CNN. At the time, the temperature outside had dropped as low as -7 degrees Celsius (19.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
"We had to sleep in our jackets, and we had five sweaters and T-shirts on, and we slept under all the blankets we had — but I was cold anyway," she said.
Karpenko said the family melted snow for water and used candles to light their small shelter, while living with the mental stress of constant attacks.
"I couldn't see my friends, I couldn't talk to them, I could only talk to my family," she said. "It's a feeling of helplessness, and it's the feeling that you don't know when it ends ... when you don't have anything but the sound of bombings.
"You're only feeling more and more miserable. You know that nowhere is safe."
After she left Mariupol, her family's building was directly hit, and much of it burned down, she said. Videos of the building show "nothing is left," she added.
In Germany, Karpenko plans to find a school to attend and pursue higher education. But her stepfather, dogs and grandparents are still in Ukraine. "They didn't want to leave," she said.
European Council: Russia's "war crimes must stop immediately"
From CNN's Valentina DiDonato and Hira Humayun
The European Council has called on Russia to immediately stop its "war crimes" in Ukraine, following a meeting of the council Thursday night.
The European Council, the governing body of the European Union (EU), concluded that Russia is directing attacks at civilians and civilian facilities like hospitals, medical facilities, schools and shelters.
"The war crimes must stop immediately," the council said in documents shared online by the spokesperson of the council president. "Those responsible, and their accomplices, will be held to account in accordance with international law."
Civilian aid: The council urged Russia to guarantee safe passage to civilians trapped in war zones to a destination of their choice, and to provide safe pathways for humanitarian aid into besieged cities like Mariupol.
The council also called on member states to step up efforts to facilitate and fund Ukrainian refugees. More than 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began last month, according to UN estimates.
Sanctions: The statement added that the European Union is ready to move quickly with further coordinated and “robust” sanctions on Russia and Belarus.
The council called on "all countries" to align with the sanctions, and warned that "any attempts to circumvent sanctions or to aid Russia by other means must be stopped.”
Australia imposes sanctions on Belarus President and his family for supporting Russia's invasion
From CNN’s Larry Register
Australia has placed sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Australia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.
The new set of sanctions also target 22 "Russian propagandists and disinformation operatives," including senior editors from media outlets Russia Today, the Strategic Culture Foundation, InfoRos and NewsFront, according to the statement.
Others include Lukashenko's wife, Galina, and his son Viktor, who previously held senior national security roles in the government.
The statement said the sanctions are to "ensure that Russia and those who support its illegal, unprovoked invasion of its democratic neighbour, pay a high cost."
Australia will “continue to impose further sanctions to inflict significant costs on those in Russia and Belarus who bear responsibility or hold levers of power,” it added.
Zelensky says European sanctions on Russia were "a little late"
From CNN’s Hira Humayun
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked European Council members for putting sanctions on Russia — but said “it was a little late.”
In his address to the European Council posted to Facebook late Thursday night, Zelensky said if the sanctions had been preventative, there was a chance Russia would not have gone to war.
“You blocked Nord Stream 2. We are grateful to you. And rightly so. But it was also a little late. Because if it had been in time, Russia would not have created a gas crisis. At least there was a chance,” he told the council.
Zelensky told member states: "The Russian military does not see what dignity is. They do not know what conscience is. They do not understand why we value our freedom so much. This is what determines how the country will live."
He said Russia has already destroyed 230 schools, 155 kindergartens and killed 128 children in Ukraine.
“Whole cities, villages. Just to ashes. Nothing remains,” he said, “The Russian military killed journalists. Although they saw the inscription "Press" on them. They may not have been taught to read. Only to kill.”
In his address, Zelensky thanked member states for their support but stopped short of thanking Hungary, calling on Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban to “decide already” on its treatment of Russia.
“You hesitate whether to impose sanctions or not? And you hesitate whether to let weapons through or not? And you hesitate whether to trade with Russia or not? There is no time to hesitate. It's time to decide already.”
Workers at Chernobyl power plant are being put at risk by Russian shelling in a nearby town, IAEA says
From CNN’s Sahar Akbarzai
Russian shelling near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has prevented personnel from rotating to and from the plant, according to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Mariano Grossi.
Ukraine’s regulatory authority told the IAEA on Thursday that shelling was endangering ‘the homes and families of those operational personnel that ensure the nuclear and radiation safety" of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
The background: Last month, Russian forces seized control of the Chernobyl power plant in northern Ukraine, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, and held staff hostage, according to Ukrainian officials.
Thursday's news comes just days after workers at the power plant were able to finally rotate shifts and go home after working for nearly four weeks without a change of shift.
Need for rest and rotating: Grossi had said earlier that Chernobyl staff must be able to rest and rotate, stating this is a "vital element for safe and secure nuclear power operation.”
But the Russian bombardment of the city of Slavutych, where many of the nuclear plant workers live, has put the personnel at risk, the IAEA said.
Slavutych is located outside of the exclusion zone that was put in place after the 1986 disaster.
Ukraine likely conducted a successful attack against Russian ships, US assesses
From CNN's Oren Liebermann
The US has assessed that Ukraine likely did conduct a successful attack against Russian ships in Berdiansk, according to a defense official. It's unclear, however, what type of weapon or weapons were used in the attack.
The assessment echoes a similar statement from the British Ministry of Defence, which said that Ukrainian forces have attacked “high-value targets” in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, including a landing ship and ammunition depots at Berdiansk.
Earlier Thursday, Ukraine said they destroyed a landing ship docked at the Berdiansk port on the Sea of Azov. Video from the city showed plumes of smoke pouring out of the dock area, as well as multiple explosions.
On Friday Ukraine’s armed forces named the Russian ship they said they attacked and destroyed in Berdiansk as the "Saratov." In earlier reporting, the ship was named as the "Orsk."
This post has been updated with new information from Ukrainian officials.
Ukrainians provide new details on Russian warship in Berdiansk they claim they destroyed
Ukrainian armed forces on Friday have now identified a large Russian landing ship that they said they destroyed at the port of Berdiansk in southern Ukraine the day before.
The port, which had recently been occupied by Russian forces with several Russian warships in dock, was rocked by a series of heavy explosions soon after dawn on Thursday.
Social media videos showed fires raging at the dockside, with a series of secondary explosions reverberating across the city.
The Ukrainian armed forces on Friday named the ship as the "Saratov." In earlier reporting, the ship was named as the "Orsk."
A day before the ship's explosion, a lengthy news report on the Russian state-controlled international TV network, RT, had featured what they said was a Russian warship named "Orsk" which is the class of landing vessel as the "Saratov" — a class known to NATO as "alligator."
The Russian Ministry of Defense has made no official comment about the explosion.
In a statement, the Ukrainian armed forces said: "In the Azov operational zone, according to updated information, a large landing ship "Saratov" was destroyed during the attack on the occupied Berdiansk port. Large landing ships "Caesar Kunikov" and "Novocherkassk" were [also] damaged. Other losses of the enemy are being clarified."
Several Russian ships had been unloading military equipment at Berdiansk in recent days, according to reports from the port by Russian media outlets.
The United States said that Ukraine likely did conduct a successful attack against Russian ships in Berdiansk, according to a defense official, though it is unclear what type of weapon or weapons were used in the attack. It echoes a similar statement from the British Ministry of Defence, which said that Ukrainian forces have attacked "high value targets" in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, including a landing ship and ammunition depots at Berdiansk.
Analysis of videos uploaded on Thursday showed that one Russian naval vessel left the port soon after the explosions.
RT is state-controlled Russian media and is considered a mouthpiece for the Kremlin. It has been under international sanctions since the beginning of the month.
This story has been updated with new information from Ukrainian officials.
CNN's Andrew Carey, Tim Lister, Celine Alkhaldi, Olga Voitovych and Gianluca Mezzofiore contributed reporting to this post.
Ukraine tells the US it needs 500 Javelins and 500 Stingers per day
From Zachary Cohen and Oren Liebermann
Ukraine has updated its extensive wishlist of additional military assistance from the US government in the past several days to include hundreds more anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles than previously requested, according to a document provided to CNN that details the items needed.
The Ukrainians have submitted similar lists in recent weeks, but a recent request provided to US lawmakers appears to reflect a growing need for American-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles — with Ukraine saying it urgently needs 500 of each, daily.
In both cases, Ukraine is asking for hundreds more missiles than were included in a similar list recently provided to US lawmakers, according to a source with knowledge of both requests.
The new list comes as the Ukrainians have claimed they face potential weapons shortages amid an ongoing Russian assault – prompting some pushback from US and NATO officials who stress that more military aid is already going into the country.
By March 7, less than two weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US and other NATO members had sent about 17,000 anti-tank missiles and 2,000 anti-aircraft missiles into Ukraine.
Since then, NATO countries, including the US, have kept the pipeline of weapons and equipment flowing, even as Russia has threatened to target the shipments.
The last of a US $350 million security assistance packaged approved in late-February arrived in Ukraine within the last few days, a senior defense official said, while the next two packages totaling $1 billion have already started to arrive.
US President Joe Biden said Thursday that “armor systems, ammunition and our weapons are flowing into Ukraine as I speak.” The defense official said it would be “multiple flights over many days” to get the equipment to Eastern Europe before it enters Ukraine at multiple land border crossings.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the United Kingdom announced they would ship 6,000 more missiles, including anti-tank and high explosive weapons, to Ukraine, along with about $33 million in financial backing for the Ukrainian military.
The list provided to CNN details several other urgent needs, including: jets, attack helicopters and anti-aircraft systems like the S-300.
Two types of Russian-made jets are listed in the document, including one designed to provide close air support for troops on the ground. Ukraine has asked for 36 of each aircraft, according to the list provided to CNN.
Some lawmakers in Congress believe the US should provide Ukraine with the weapons they’re requesting as quickly as possible.
Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada, visited Poland and Germany last weekend to meet with civil society organizations helping Ukrainian refugees who’ve arrived in those countries as well as US troops stationed abroad helping with humanitarian efforts.
Rosen said her biggest takeaway from the trip was the “sense of urgency,” on the ground.
“They need all the tools to not just survive the war, but to win the war, so whether we provide them air to ground missiles, drones, all the military support,” Rosen told CNN.