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

Updated 12:19 p.m. ET, March 25, 2022
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2:15 p.m. ET, March 24, 2022

Biden says Western leaders discussed food shortages, which he says will be "real"

US President Joe Biden said leaders discussed the possibilities of food shortages triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Biden said food shortages will be "real," and he called Ukraine and Russia the "breadbasket" for Europe.

Supplies from the two countries together account for almost 30% of global wheat trade.

"The price of the sanctions is not just imposed upon Russia. It's imposed upon an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and our country as well," Biden said in remarks after an emergency NATO meeting in Brussels.

"We had a long discussion in the G7 with ... both the United States, which has a significant — the third largest producer of wheat in the world — as well as Canada, which is also a major, major producer. And we both talked about how we could increase and disseminate more rapidly food ... In addition to that, we talked about urging all the European countries and everyone else to end trade restrictions on sending, limitations on sending food abroad. So we are in the process of working out with our European friends what it would be, what it would take to help alleviate the concerns relative to food shortages," he said.

Biden also mentioned a "significant" US investment model for humanitarian assistance, which would include food.

Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron laid out the details of a proposed EU-led food security initiative designed to alleviate the risk of food shortages caused by the war.

“This situation will create a food crisis, extremely serious humanitarian situations in several countries and are sure to have massive political consequences in several countries,” Macron said at a news conference in Brussels on Thursday.

According to a document circulated by the Elysée, Russia is the top exporter of wheat worldwide (33 million tons in 2021) with Ukraine not far behind (fourth largest exporter, with 20 million tons in 2021).

The document estimates 27 mostly African and Middle Eastern countries source over 50% of their wheat from Russia or Ukraine.

The three-pronged initiative spelled out in the document would rely on measures, such as making crisis stockpiles of grain available to “avoid any shortages and keep prices down,” raising production thresholds, and stepping up investments in sustainable agriculture in the most-affected countries.

CNN's Simon Bouvier contributed reporting to this post.

1:53 p.m. ET, March 24, 2022

Biden says China understands economic consequences of aiding Russia in war

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden speaks about the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a news conference after a NATO summit and Group of Seven meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday.
US President Joe Biden speaks about the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a news conference after a NATO summit and Group of Seven meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden said he believes China understands the potentially dire economic consequences that would ensue should the country provide assistance to Russia in its war in Ukraine.

Biden said he had a “very straightforward conversation” with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week on the topic.

He said he “made no threats,” but did make clear that Xi “understood the consequences of him helping Russia.”

He said he pointed out the consequences of Russia’s behavior, and pointed out that China had sought to develop stronger economic ties with the West. He said he told Xi “he'd be putting himself at significant jeopardy in those aims, if, in fact, he were to move forward.”

“I think that China understands that its economic future is much more closely tied to the west than it is to Russia. And so I am hopeful that he does not get engaged,” Biden said.

1:52 p.m. ET, March 24, 2022

Putin "was banking on NATO being split," Biden says

From CNN's Sam Fossum

US President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin had indicated to him in their early conversations that he believed the NATO alliance would not remain united.

"Putin was banking on NATO being split. My early conversation with him in December and early January — was clear to me he didn't think that we could sustain this cohesion," Biden told reporters in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday. "NATO has never been more united than it is today. Putin is getting exactly the opposite what he intended to have, as a consequence of going into Ukraine."
1:44 p.m. ET, March 24, 2022

Biden: "We would respond" if Putin used chemical weapons

US President Joe Biden said that the US would respond if Russian President Vladimir Putin used weapons of mass destruction, but that the response would depend on the situation.

"So you've warned about the real threat of chemical weapons being used. Have you gathered specific intelligence that suggests that President Putin is deploying these weapons, moving them into position or considering their use? And would the US or NATO respond with military action if he did use chemical weapons?" the Associated Press asked the US President during his news conference.

Biden responded that he could not provide information on intelligence, but added on the issue of chemical weapons, "We would respond if he uses it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of use."

Earlier today, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will reinforce its chemical, biological and nuclear defense systems on fears Russia is planning to use such weapons against the people of Ukraine.

1:46 p.m. ET, March 24, 2022

Biden says NATO has "never been more united than it has today" in response to Russian invasion


In remarks after meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels, US President Joe Biden said "we're determined to sustain" efforts outlined during the emergency NATO meeting right after Russia's invasion of Ukraine and "to build on them." 

"The United States is committed to provide over $2 billion in military equipment to Ukraine since I became president. Anti-air systems, anti-armor systems, , ammunition and our weapons are flowing into Ukraine as I speak. And today, I am announcing the United States is prepared to commit more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to help get relief to millions of Ukrainians affected by the war in Ukraine," Biden said.

Biden said the US is ready to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees in to the country. The President also confirmed new sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and members of government.

"NATO has never, never been more united than it is today. Putin is getting exactly the opposite what he intended to have as a consequence of going into Ukraine," he said.

2:16 p.m. ET, March 24, 2022

NOW: Biden holds news conference after emergency summits

US President Joe Biden is speaking at a news conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, after meeting with other world leaders of NATO, the European Council and the G7 as they seek to align their responses to Russia's invasion.

1:39 p.m. ET, March 24, 2022

Apartment complexes seen reduced to rubble in new video from Mariupol city council

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy 

A downed power line tower, burned-out cars and apartment complexes gutted by military strikes can be seen in new video from Mariupol, which was posted by the Ukrainian city's council on Thursday.

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the video.

The video starts with a car driving south down Krupina Street. This area of western Mariupol has seen intense fighting for weeks, and nearly every single building — including a number of hospitals — in the area has sustained significant damage.

"This is how some roads in general look like," someone in the car is heard saying in the video as it drives through two arms of a toppled-over power line transmission tower. "We have to pass through using such a miraculous method."

The trees around them are charred, with most of their branches seen splintered around them on the ground.

The apartment complexes on the left are also charred. On a side road between two of the apartment buildings, the bombed-out remains of a city bus and bulldozer are seen. 

A clear blue sky is seen through the apartment building-turned-debris pile, with only portions of the facades and balconies still standing in parts of the building.

Further down the street, the remains of a local gym is seen. 

2:09 p.m. ET, March 24, 2022

German chancellor issues warning to Putin on chemical or biological weapons: "Don't do it"

From Inke Kappeler in Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Thursday.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Thursday. (Michael Kappeler/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Any Russian use of chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine “would be a breach of all rules, all agreements and all existing conventions,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said after an extraordinary G7 meeting in Brussels on Thursday. “We can only say: Don't do it!”

Scholz firmly rejected Russian allegations that that Ukraine was developing chemical or biological weapons. 

Scholz also rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand that “unfriendly” countries begin paying for Russian gas in rubles.

“The currency of payment is part of the contract and that is what is valid. Mostly it reads euros or dollar,” Scholz said in Brussels. 

He conceded that energy had been left out of Western sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, but said that was intentional.

It was a “very conscious decision” of the bloc to exclude the imports of oil, gas and coal from the packet of sanctions. The bloc was working on further sanctions, said Scholz. 

In order to lessen Germany's dependence on Russian energy, the country will begin the construction of two liquefied natural gas terminals to receive natural gas this year, Scholz said.

1:59 p.m. ET, March 24, 2022

It's a little past 7 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know.

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to call on Russia to Ukraine and provide more civilian protection as Russia's month-long invasion of Ukraine continues.

New footage shows the extent of destruction in some Ukrainian cities caused by Russian forces as Western leaders gather in Brussels to conduct extraordinary sessions of NATO, the European Council and the G7.

Here's a look at other key developments:

Civilian casualties: The civilian death toll in Ukraine has exceeded 1,000 since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Thursday — warning that "the actual figures are considerably higher."

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” according to the OHCHR.

In a statement, the UN body detailed the 1,035 civilian deaths as “214 men, 160 women, 14 girls, and 28 boys, as well as 48 children and 571 adults whose sex is yet unknown.”

Destruction of cities in Ukraine: As Russia attempts to link advances made in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine with its stronghold in the far east of the country, the city of Izyum has found itself caught up in terrible fighting, a local official said. 

Council deputy Max Strelnyk told CNN the town had been “completely destroyed” by Russian aircraft and artillery, even as fierce battles continued inside Izyum for control of the ground. 

Strelnyk said Russian troops occupied the northern part of the city and were attempting to cross the Seversky Donets River — which makes a U-shape as it runs through the town �� to take the southern part as well, currently held by Ukrainian armed forces. 

CNN has previously reported that much of central Izyum has been destroyed by military strikes. 

A Russian missile strike hit a shopping mall parking lot in Kharkiv, killing six people and injuring 15, regional governor Oleg Syniehubov said. 

People were waiting outside a post office in the mall to receive humanitarian aid, Syniehubov added. 

Video of the incident, which has been geolocated by CNN, shows people attending to several apparent casualties in the parking lot. 

NATO will reinforce its chemical, biological and nuclear defense systems on fears Russia is planning to use such weapons against the people of Ukraine, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday. 

"Our top military commander General Walters has activated NATO's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense elements, and allies are deploying additional chemical and biological and nuclear defenses to reinforce our existing and new backing groups,” he told reporters in Brussels following an extraordinary meeting of heads of state and government.

UN General Assembly votes to call on Russia to end the war in Ukraine: The United Nations General Assembly has again delivered a resounding diplomatic blow to Russia, with an overwhelming vote calling for Russia to stop its war on Ukraine, plus more protection of civilians.

There were 140 countries in favor, five opposed and 38 abstentions on a resolution sponsored by the United States and nearly two dozen other countries. A few weeks ago, 141 countries backed a resolution deploring Russia’s invasion.