March 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Ed Upright, George Ramsay, Aditi Sangal and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 26, 2022
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9:35 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

US assesses Russia is running low on air-launched cruise missiles and is experiencing high rates of failure

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The US has assessed that Russian forces are running low on air-launched cruise missiles, and there are indications they are trying to preserve that inventory as part of their declining stocks of precision guided munitions, according to a US defense official.

Air-launched cruise missiles are the “lowest” part of the inventory, the official added.

In addition, these missiles are showing high failure rates at launch, the official said. The US currently assesses Russian failure rates of precision guided munitions, especially cruise missiles failure rates, range from “20 percent to as high as 60 percent,” the official said, depending on the type of weapon and mission.  

The US has tracked this information in part by observing the number of Russian missions that appear to involve unguided, or "dumb," bombs. Satellites and other airborne intelligence platforms can monitor the failure of some missile launches by gathering intelligence on infrared and radar signatures of the aircraft and the missiles.

9:42 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Biden has arrived in Poland, where he will be briefed on Ukrainian refugee situation

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Air Force One lands at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport, Poland, as U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to visit on March 25.
Air Force One lands at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport, Poland, as U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to visit on March 25. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

US President Joe Biden has just arrived in Rzeszów, Poland.

Biden will be greeted by Polish President Andrzej Duda before receiving a briefing on the humanitarian response to ease the suffering of civilians inside Ukraine and to respond to the growing flow of refugees. 

Read more about his visit to Poland here.

9:39 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

US can still take "additional measures to tighten the screws on sanctions" against Russia, White House says

From CNN's Sam Fossum

A woman looks at empty shelves in a supermarket in Moscow, Russia, on March 23.
A woman looks at empty shelves in a supermarket in Moscow, Russia, on March 23. (Vlad Karkov/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

The US government believes they still "retain the capacity" to impose further non-military costs on Russia, like additional sanctions, over the Kremlin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One on Friday.

"We believe that we still retain the capacity to impose additional costs on Russia that are not strictly military costs," Sullivan said. "We believe that, of course, there are additional measures to tighten the screws on sanctions and we'll be constantly reviewing those."

"We do think the sanctions will increasingly have the effect of pressuring and constraining the Russian economy, the Russian war machine in ways that will shape their thinking as they go forward. And that will undermine their capacity to play an aggressive role in the world, as they have done over the course of the past many years," he added.

Sullivan also stressed the importance of enforcing the already announced sanctions.

"This point about enforcement though, I think is really central because in the period ahead, Russia's main focus from an economic perspective is going to be to figure out how they can get around over or under the sanctions that have been imposed. And blocking off those pathways is going to be vital to producing the kinds of cost imposition effects and vital to shaping the thinking in the Kremlin," Sullivan said. 

When asked about concerns over sanctions backfiring and causing the Russian population to solidify behind Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sullivan acknowledged that it's a narrative the Russian government will try to push, but the US believes the Russian people will be able to "connect the dots."

"At the end of the day, the Russian people are going to ask the more fundamental question of why this happened and how this happened and we believe that at the end of the day they will be able to connect the dots," Sullivan said. 

When asked about whether the US is prepared to use secondary sanctions, Sullivan did not rule it out and said that the US is ready to designate any person or company "undertaking systematic efforts to weaken or evade them and those tools are at this point well understood by companies and countries around the world."

"We're prepared to use them if it becomes necessary to do so," Sullivan said. 

Regarding oil, Sullivan said that the administration is looking at “various actions” it can take alongside allies to address oil prices, saying it was a major topic of conversation when Biden met with G7 allies. 

Sullivan did not go into details, but hinted the actions would be announced soon, saying, “I will not steal the thunder of the administration on that issue.”

“That was a major topic of conversation. The question of what tools we have at our disposal to deal with global oil prices and without getting ahead of the administration we are looking at various actions we can take and I’ll leave it at that for now,” Sullivan said. 

CNN's Allie Malloy contributed reporting to this post.

9:48 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

US national security adviser clarifies Biden answer on responding to potential Russian chemical weapon attack

From CNN's Allie Malloy

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday the United States has “no intention of using chemical weapons period, under any circumstance” when asked about President Joe Biden’s comment Thursday that he would respond “in kind” if Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine. 

Asked about Biden’s comments, Sullivan said Biden also said in Thursday’s news conference that United States would respond “accordingly.”

“Meaning we will elect the form and nature of our response based on the nature of the action Russia takes and we’ll do so in coordination with our allies. And we’ve communicated to the Russians as the President said publicly a couple of weeks ago that there will be a severe price if Russia uses chemical weapons. And I wont go beyond that other to say the United States has no intention of using chemical weapons period under any circumstances,” Sullivan continued.

Asked whether there is a consensus among allies for an “offramp” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the invasion, Sullivan said that is the “wrong concept because, of course, this was a war Putin chose to wage, it’s a war Putin could choose to stop at any moment.”

Sullivan said that a process is being conducted directly between the Ukrainians and the Russians as well as some communication between European allies like France and Germany, plus partners like Israel directly with the Russians. 

“The United States is not directly participating in those negotiations, but we're staying in close contact with our Ukrainian counterparts and with those other countries that are talking to both sides,” Sullivan said, adding that “the President [was] very clear yesterday that ultimately any diplomatic agreement is one that Ukraine itself will have to determine for itself and the United States is not going to push or pressure Ukraine into any particular outcome."

8:55 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Biden will meet with Ukrainian refugees in Poland on Saturday and deliver "major address," White House says

From CNN's Sam Fossum

US President Joe Biden will meet with Ukrainian refugees and American humanitarians in Poland on Saturday, according to White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan.

He added that the President will also deliver a "major address" and meet with President Andrzej Duda of Poland. 

"He will give a major address tomorrow that will speak to the stakes of this moment, the urgency of the challenge that lies ahead, what the conflict in Ukraine means for the world, and why it is so important that the free world sustain unity and resolve in the face of Russian aggression," Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One. 

Biden is traveling to Poland today after attending a round of emergency summits in Belgium Thursday.

9:30 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Putin instructed energy giant Gazprom to switch to ruble payments, Kremlin spokesperson says

From CNN staff

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on March 23.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on March 23. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed Russian state energy giant Gazprom to switch to ruble payments, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

Asked in a conference call with reporters whether Russia would continue to supply gas to the EU if the European countries refuse to pay in rubles, Peskov said, “Gazprom has been instructed by the Russian president to accept payment in rubles." 

"Within a week, or rather, within the remaining four days, Gazprom should… develop an understandable system of how this can be done technically and logistically," Peskov added. 

Putin said Wednesday Russia will seek payments for gas in rubles from countries it considers "unfriendly." German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Thursday rejected Putin’s demand that those countries begin paying for Russian gas in rubles.

The Russian president's order does not apply to independent gas producer Novatek, Peskov added, as it is a private company.

The German Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck said Putin’s demand amounts to “blackmail.”

Putin’s instruction is a breach of contract with Gazprom, Habeck said during a news conference in Berlin on Friday, during which he outlined how Germany is moving away from Russian energy. 

“Germany is accelerating independence from Russian energy with high speed," he said. 

Germany is preparing for a possible scenario in which Putin stops energy supplies, with Habeck saying Berlin is well-prepared. By winter, Germany aspires to be completely independent from Russian oil, he added. He said that Germany was working on erecting liquefied natural gas terminals as quickly as possible.

US President Joe Biden has announced plans to supply Europe together with other nations with at least 15 billion cubic meters of LNG in 2022.

CNN's Inke Kappeler contributed reporting to this post from Berlin.

8:31 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Half of all Ukrainian kids have been displaced since the Russian invasion began, UNICEF says

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Sana Noor Haq

Ukrainian refugees arrive at Hendaye train station, southwestern France, on March 9.
Ukrainian refugees arrive at Hendaye train station, southwestern France, on March 9. (Bob Edme/AP)

One in every two Ukrainian children has been displaced since Russia began its invasion on February 24, according to a statement from the UN Children's Fund on Thursday.

UNICEF's statement added that 4.3 million children have been displaced, which represents more than half of Ukraine's estimated 7.5 million child population.

This figure includes over 1.8 million children who have crossed into neighboring countries as refugees, and 2.5 million children who are also internally displaced in Ukraine, the statement said.

The statement added that 78 children have been killed and 105 children have been injured in Ukraine since the invasion began over a month ago, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

However, these figures represent those that the UN has managed to confirm, and the true toll is expected to be higher, the statement said.

"It's mind-boggling," UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told CNN earlier this week. "Since the start of the war a month ago, out of every boy and girl in the country, one out of two now has had to flee their homes."

It's a situation we've not seen before, not in living memory, and it's almost impossible to deal with," Elder said.

Elder said UNICEF is trying to get blankets, water purification tablets, generators, medical supplies and obstetric kits for mothers giving birth into the country.

"Unless the war stops, unless the indiscriminate attacks stop, we're going to see more children wrenched from their homes and the bombardments," he added.

8:33 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Where have chemical weapons been used, and are they really a red line for the West?  

From CNN's Rob Picheta

U.S. President Joe Biden attends a press conference after the special NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on March 24.
U.S. President Joe Biden attends a press conference after the special NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on March 24. (Michael Kappeler/picture alliance/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that NATO would respond if Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine, and has previously warned that Moscow would “pay a severe price” if it did so.  

The use of such weapons against Ukrainian people would mark a dramatic escalation to Russia’s invasion, and would likely demand heavy retaliation from the West.  

But concerns have been growing that Russia may be planning to take the step, after the Kremlin planted the unsubstantiated idea that Ukraine and the US may use these weapons. "It's a tell that they themselves may be preparing to do so, and then trying to pin the blame on someone else," US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this month.   

Why would their use be so significant? Chemical weapons contain toxic substances designed to cause death or harm to their targets. They can spread dangerous chemicals including choking, blister and nerve agents, which can attack the body and cause death on a vast scale, indiscriminately and across a wide area if they are deployed inside a bomb or an artillery shell.  

Their use is banned by international law. Russia has signed those treaties and claims it doesn't have chemical weapons, but the country has already been linked to the use of nerve agents against critics in recent years. Those cases include the poisonings of Alexander Litvinenko, Sergei Skripal and Alexey Navalny. 

A painful history: Widespread horror over the use of chemical agents during World War I resulted in the Geneva Protocol, signed in 1925, which banned chemical weapons attacks.  

Nonetheless, as many as 25 countries worked to develop chemical weapons during the Cold War, according to the United Nations’ Office for Disarmament Affairs. Lengthy negotiations eventually led to the adoption of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1992, requiring nations to destroy their stockpiles and prohibiting the development, production or use of chemical weapons.

There have, however, been limited occasions in which they have been used in combat -- and those occasions have led to political fallout around the world. 

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein used a variety of chemical weapons against Iran during the 1980s, and their use in Syria over the past decade brought the threat of US intervention in that country’s civil war. 

Attacks in Ghouta in 2013, and in Khan Sheikhoun in 2017, both involved the alleged use of sarin gas, a nerve agent banned under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. 

In 2013, the use of the gas, reported by United Nations investigators, crossed one of then-President Barack Obama's self-declared red lines, yet no military action came. Instead, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) went into Syria to monitor the destruction of the country's chemical weapons program. 

Warnings to Russia: While Biden’s declaration may conjure memories of Obama’s ill-fated “red line” warning in 2013, the current US President has a united NATO on his side.  

On Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would reinforce its chemical, biological and nuclear defense systems amid fears over Russia’s intentions.

In a joint statement Thursday, the leaders of the G7 warned Russia against the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. 

“Any Russian use of chemical or biological weapons “would be a breach of all rules, all agreements and all existing conventions,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz added. “We can only say: Don't do it!” 

8:10 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

It's just past 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

It has now been over a month since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in late February. Here's the latest in the ongoing conflict:

New death toll in theater bombing: Mariupol city council says that based on eyewitness reports, it now believes around 300 people died in a Russian airstrike on a theater in the city on March 16. CNN has not independently verified the casualty figures. The building was being used as one of the main shelters in Mariupol, with estimates of the number of people taking refuge there ranging from between 800 to 1,300. Information about the full extent of the attack has been slow to emerge due to the almost complete breakdown of essential services in the city, including communication networks. 

Battles on the ground: The UK's Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces have retaken towns and defensive positions on the eastern outskirts of Kyiv in its latest intelligence update. Further east, however, intense clashes around Izyum have left much of the city destroyed, city officials say, with new satellite images revealing the extent of the devastation in the region. The city has been caught in the crossfire as Russia attempts to link advances made in the Kharkiv region of northern Ukraine with its stronghold in the far east of the country.

Evacuation corridors: Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced two evacuation routes for Mariupol and occupied Melitopol on Friday. Speaking in a televised message, Vereshchuk said the corridors will link the two cities with Zaporizhzhia, which lies to the north and is still under Ukrainian control. A centralized evacuation is also planned by bus from the Russian occupied city of Berdyansk, the deputy prime minister said, adding that 48 buses are parked at the entrance to the city.

Biden heads to Poland: US President Joe Biden has departed Brussels, and is now heading to the Poland-Ukraine border region, where he plans to meet Polish President Andrzej Duda for a briefing on humanitarian aid efforts. Biden's visit to Poland is will be the second stop of his wartime trip��through Europe and is intended to highlight the massive refugee crisis that has ensued from Russia's war in Ukraine, the White House said.

US and EU announce joint task force: US President Joe Biden announced a new initiative meant to deprive Russian President Vladimir Putin of European energy profits used to “drive his war machine," adding that the United States would help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas, and would ensure the continent had enough supplies for the next two winters. The United States will work toward supplying Europe with at least 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas in 2022, in partnership with other nations, the White House said. Speaking alongside Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, hailed the joint energy task force as a "big step" in efforts to diversify gas supplies away from Russia.