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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1:50 p.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Russia is moving troops into Ukraine from Georgia as reinforcements, senior US defense official says

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Ellie Kaufma

The Russian military is moving troops stationed in the country of Georgia into Ukraine as reinforcements, according to a senior US defense official.

The US had seen “movement of some number of troops from Georgia,” the defense official told reporters, adding that the Pentagon could not provide a number for how many troops Moscow was moving or the timeline that they were on. 

“We now have indications that they are drawing on forces from Georgia to Ukraine,” the official said, adding they were not tracking their movements from the air.

Russian troops have been stationed in Georgia after Russia invaded the country in 2008. Georgia is on Russia’s southwestern border. 

The Pentagon did not know where the troops from Georgia would be going in Ukraine, the official said, while noting that the Kremlin has said it is prioritizing its activity in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the US assesses Russian forces have 22 ships in the Black Sea and while 15 of them are “surface combatants,” the official said that “most of the rest are amphibious ships."

“We’ve seen them move into the Sea of Azov to conduct an amphibious assault, to try to resupply their efforts on Mariupol, we have not seen them move on Odesa,” the official added.

The Russians could use those ships to strike Ukraine with missiles, but the US has not seen them do so yet, the official told reporters Friday. 

2:51 p.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Russia has stopped ground movements toward Kyiv and moved in defensive positions, US official says

From Michael Conte and Ellie Kaufman

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard near a burning warehouse hit by a Russian shell in the suburbs of the capital Kyiv on March 24.T
A Ukrainian soldier stands guard near a burning warehouse hit by a Russian shell in the suburbs of the capital Kyiv on March 24.T (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian forces around Ukraine's capital of Kyiv are now in defensive positions and have stopped “any interest in terms of ground movements” towards the capital city, though air attacks and long-range strikes still continue, according to a senior US defense official.

The US estimates that Ukrainian forces are still holding where they had pushed the Russians back further east of the city, adding that there are indications that Ukrainian forces are pushing back the Russians around the northern city of Chernihiv as well.

The nearby town of Makariv is “at the very least contested” and may be in Ukrainian control, the official said.

The US cannot confirm the Russian claim to have destroyed a military fuel depot near Kyiv, the official added.

Meanwhile, 1,250 missiles have been launched by Russia against Ukraine since the start of the invasion, according to the official.

1:32 p.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Finland will discontinue European Union's last direct train link with Russia on Monday due to sanctions

From CNN’s Abby Baggini and Arnaud Siad

Finland will cease to provide the European Union’s last direct train link with Russia on Monday due to sanctions, according to a statement from VR Group which operates the "Allegro" line between Helsinki and St. Petersburg.

In their statement posted on Friday, VR Group, which is Finland’s government-owned railway company, said: “VR will discontinue the Allegro train service until further notice, starting form March 28th, 2022.”

“On Sunday, March 27th, only the morning train from Helsinki to St Petersburg will be operated and the afternoon train, AE786, will be cancelled. Both services from St. Petersburg, on Sunday, will be operated,” it added.

Topi Simola, SVP for Passenger Services at VR Group, noted that the service is being discontinued "for now."

“Thus far we have been continuing the Allegro train services, according to the instructions by the relevant authorities and hence making sure that we can provide a safe passage to the Finnish citizens. During these weeks, the people, who have wanted to depart from Russia, have had adequate time to leave. Now, due to the sanctions we will discontinue the service for now,” Simola said.

"According to VR, Allegro is the only rail passenger connection between the European Union and Russia at present,” Taina Kuitunen, VR Group Communications Manager told CNN.

On Feb. 27, the EU imposed a blanket flight ban on Russian planes in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

12:34 p.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Biden expresses "disappointment" that he can't see the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine firsthand

Priests and Poland servicemen prepare for an Orthodox prayer at a refugee center in Nadarzyn, near Warsaw, Poland, on March 25.
Priests and Poland servicemen prepare for an Orthodox prayer at a refugee center in Nadarzyn, near Warsaw, Poland, on March 25. (Petr David Josek/AP)

US President Joe Biden thanked humanitarian organizations in Poland for sending aid to Ukraine and assisting refugees while he is set to receive a briefing on the situation.

"I'm here in Poland to see firsthand the humanitarian crisis and, quite frankly, part of my disappointment is that I can't see it firsthand like I have in other places. They will not let me," he said. "Understandably, I'm guessing, cross the border and take a look at what's going on in Ukraine, but I'm eager to hear from you in the humanitarian community about what you see, what you're doing and where you think we go from here."

The humanitarian response is of "enormous consequence," Biden said, adding that Ukrainians immediately need vital goods like food, blankets, cash and medicine.

The Biden administration yesterday announced the US is committing more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians affected by the war.

About 3.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine, according to estimates from the United Nations, with the majority of them arriving in Poland.

"The suffering that's taking place now is at your doorstep. You are the ones risking, in some cases your lives ... and the American people are proud to support your efforts," he said.

12:08 p.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Ukrainian army says Russian general has been killed in Kherson fighting

From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

The Ukrainian army says its forces have killed Russian Lt. Gen. Yakov Rezantsev during fighting in Chornobaiivka, in the Kherson region in Ukraine’s south. 

The army said Rezantsez was commander of the 49th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation. 

Russia’s defense ministry has not commented on the Ukrainian claim.

So far, some six Russian generals are believed to have been killed since the start of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, as well as a deputy commander of the Black Sea fleet. 

12:00 p.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Switzerland adopts further sanctions against Russia

From CNN’s Abby Baggini and Arnaud Siad

Switzerland has adopted further sanctions against Russia in line with the European Union’s latest package of sanctions, the Swiss Federal Council announced on Friday.

“The Federal Council decision of 25 March means that Switzerland remains in line with the measures imposed by the EU on 9 and 15 March in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. On 16 March, Switzerland had already adopted the extended list of persons and entities subject to financial sanctions imposed by the EU,” according to a statement from the council.

Switzerland has imposed bans related to the energy and financial sectors, plus dealing with luxury, iron and steel goods, the statement said.

“The export of goods and related services for the Russian energy sector is now prohibited. Also prohibited is the participation in businesses active in the energy sector and the provision of loans or other financial resources to such businesses,” the statement read.

“A ban is introduced on the import of iron and steel goods from Russia, or originating in Russia, as well as a ban on the export of luxury goods and maritime navigation goods to Russia. In the financial sector, transactions with certain state-owned companies and the provision of credit rating services are prohibited,” it also said.

However, the Federal Council noted it had decided to allow “certain exceptions from the financial sanctions for humanitarian purposes,” saying it would “ease” business relationships “necessary for the work of humanitarian organizations.”

The council also said it had taken the decision not to implement the EU measure of suspending the broadcasting of contents from some Russian media outlets, “namely Sputnik and Russia Today.”

“Despite the fact that these outlets are used to spread targeted propaganda and disinformation by the Russian Federation, the Federal Council is of the opinion that it is more effective to counter untrue and harmful statements with facts instead of preventing them from being broadcast,” the council said.

Switzerland first broke with its tradition of neutrality in early March.

11:44 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Russian defense ministry provides first major military personnel casualty update since March 2

From CNN staff

The Russian military said in a briefing on Friday that 1,351 military personnel had been killed in Ukraine and 3,825 had been wounded, in the first major casualty update since March 2.

US, Ukrainian and NATO estimates put estimates of Russian troop losses much higher. Two senior NATO military officials on Wednesday estimated the number of Russian soldiers killed in action in Ukraine to be between 7,000 and 15,000. Other US officials have put Russian losses in a similar range — between 7,000 and 14,000 Russian soldiers killed — but they have expressed “low confidence” in those estimates. 

"Unfortunately, during the special military operation, there have been losses among our comrades," said First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Col. General Sergei Rudskoy, using the official euphemism that refers to the war in Ukraine. "To date, 1,351 servicemen have died, 3,825 have been injured. The state will take the responsibility to support families, raise children up to receive higher education, for full repayment of loans and resolving the housing issue."

Rudskoy added that the military had received a "large number of applications from Russian citizens" hoping to enlist and fight in Ukraine. 

More context: Friday's announcement was the first major casualty update by the Russian military since March 2, when the Russian Ministry of Defense reported 498 Russian military personnel killed in Ukraine and 1,597 wounded.

In the same briefing, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said, "The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will continue to carry out the special military operation until all the assigned tasks are completed."

1:36 p.m. ET, March 25, 2022

In address to US troops in Poland, Biden praises Ukrainians for "stepping up" to defend their country

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt and Kevin Liptak

(Evan Vucci/AP)
(Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden lauded the bravery of Ukrainian civilians while speaking to US troops in Poland, saying they are "stepping up."

"Ukrainian people have a lot of backbone. They have a lot of guts," Biden said.

"Look at how they're stepping up. ... Women, young people standing in the middle of, in the front of a damn tank, just saying 'I'm not leaving. I'm holding my ground.' They're incredible," he said.

Biden said the stakes of the war in Ukraine extended beyond the country itself, framing the conflict as a test of democracies under threat from autocracies that could have global ramifications.

"What you're engaging in is much more than just whether or not you can alleviate people of Ukraine. We're in a new phase. Your generation, we're in an inflection point," he continued.

“The question is, who is going to prevail? Is democracy going to prevail and the values we share? Or are autocracies going to prevail? That's really what's at stake,” Biden said. “What you’re doing is consequential, really consequential.”

The conflict underway only is about 50 miles (more than 80 kilometers) from where Biden was standing in Rzeszów. Echoing the large foreign policy frame he’s used previously, but with a Russian addition, he said the assembled US service members were “in the midst of a fight between democracies and oligarchs.”

“What’s at stake, not just what we’re doing here in Ukraine to help the Ukrainian people and keep the massacre from continuing, but beyond that what’s at stake is what are your kids and grandkids going to look like in terms of their freedom?” Biden said.

He thanked the US troops, calling them the "finest fighting force in the history of the world."

Watch his remarks:

11:10 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

UN nuclear watchdog calls out Russia for shelling areas where Chernobyl power plant staff reside 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has called out Russia for shelling areas where staff who work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant live.   

In a statement Thursday evening, the IAEA said the Ukrainian regulator had informed it that "Russian forces were shelling Ukrainian checkpoints in the city of Slavutych where many people working at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) live."  

Slavutych is located outside the exclusion zone that was established in the wake of the infamous 1986 accident at the plant.   

"Ukraine’s regulatory authority said the shelling was endangering “the homes and families of those operational personnel that ensure the nuclear and radiation safety” of the Chernobyl NPP, which is under the control of Russian forces since 24 February," the statement continued.  

The UN watchdog's chief, Rafael Grossi, expressed his concern at the development, noting it took place just days after the plant's technical staff were allowed to return home and rest after working for nearly four weeks without a change of shift.