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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11:00 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

UK prime minister had “frank” conversation with Chinese President, according to Downing Street

From CNN’s Beijing Bureau and Alex Hardie

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a “frank” conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, according to the prime minister’s spokesperson.

The two leaders discussed “a range of issues of mutual interest, including the situation in the Ukraine,” in what Johnson’s spokesperson called “a frank and candid conversation lasting almost an hour.”

They agreed to speak again soon, the spokesperson said.

Xi told Johnson that his country would play a "constructive role" in returning peace to Ukraine, according to a readout published by state media outlet Xinhua.

“Xi expounded China's principled position on Ukraine issue, stressing that the international community should truly promote peace talks, create conditions for the political settlement of the Ukrainian issue and push for Ukraine's return to peace at an early date. China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard,” according to the Xinhua article. 

Some more background: Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine but wants to avoid being impacted by the sanctions it has repeatedly denounced as an ineffective way of resolving the crisis.

Beijing gave its full backing last Wednesday to comments made earlier in the week by China's ambassador to Ukraine. "China will never attack Ukraine. We will help, especially economically," Fan Xianrong was quoted as saying in a news release from the Lviv regional government.

CNN also reported last week that Russia has asked China for military support, including drones, as well as economic assistance for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, according to two US officials. The requests came after the invasion, one of the officials said. That official declined to detail the Chinese reaction but indicated that the Chinese had responded. Both the Chinese and Russian governments publicly denied that the request happened.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the administration has not seen China provide military equipment to Russia since US President Joe Biden spoke with China’s President Xi Jinping last Friday. 

China has also provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

CNN's Laura He contributed reporting to this post. 

10:43 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Air raid sirens heard in Lviv

From CNN's Jennifer Hauser

Air raid sirens went off Friday afternoon (local time) in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

They could be heard in the background where CNN's John Berman was anchoring, and they sounded for about four or five minutes. CNN will continue to monitor.

Lviv is about 43 miles (70 kilometers) from the border with Poland.

10:18 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Plane carrying Polish president lands in Rzeszów for meeting with Biden 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Anna Odzeniak 

The plane carrying Polish President Andrzej Duda has landed in Rzeszów, in southeastern Poland, after being forced to make an emergency landing and return to Warsaw earlier on Friday. 

Duda was traveling from Warsaw to Rzeszów to meet with US President Joe Biden when the emergency landing occurred. 

"There was an emergency landing of the plane with President Duda; the plane returned to Warsaw," according to Polish government news agency PAP. 

A White House official also confirmed the emergency landing.

Biden flipped his schedule this morning, meeting first with the members of 82nd Airborne Division and then participating in humanitarian events in Poland, according to pool reporters. The White House said Duda would participate as well if he arrived in time.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Allie Malloy contributed reporting to this post.

10:46 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Biden meets with US 82nd Airborne Division in Poland

President Joe Biden visits with members of the 82nd Airborne Division at the G2A Arena, on March 25, in Jasionka, Poland.
President Joe Biden visits with members of the 82nd Airborne Division at the G2A Arena, on March 25, in Jasionka, Poland. (Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden is meeting with members of the 82nd Airborne Division in Rzeszów, Poland, alongside US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other US officials.

"This is a big deal for the President to be meeting with these troops. It's not just a big deal for these soldiers, it's a big deal because it sends a powerful message of what the US is all about, bolstering this NATO presence in Europe," CNN's Wolf Blitzer reported.

Biden could be seen sitting down to eat pizza with service members.

Biden will next be receiving a briefing on the humanitarian response to the refugee crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

10:08 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

"We are going on the counterattack," Ukrainian government adviser says about fighting in Kyiv region

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Andrew Carey in Lviv

A Ukrainian government adviser struck an upbeat note describing recent offensives in the region around Kyiv.

“We are going on the counterattack. We are moving forward,” Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the interior minister, told Ukrainian television.

CNN reported earlier that Ukrainian forces appeared to have retaken territory around the small settlement of Lukianovka about 55 kilometers (about 34 miles) east of the capital. Social media geolocated by CNN depicted the aftermath of heavy battles there.

To the immediate northwest of Kyiv, the mayor of Irpin told CNN that 80% of the town was controlled by the Ukrainian army, but added it was still coming under sustained fire from Russian Grad rockets.

“Very serious battles took place near Baryshivka [to the east], Bucha, Hostomel, and Irpin [all to the northwest]. We managed to recapture quite a lot,” Denysenko said.

Defensive lines were being held, he said, with counter-offensives staged.

“Twelve tanks, several planes, more than 10 units of armored vehicles and at least 300 people were destroyed in the last 24 hours,” he said.

At the same time, Denysenko reported further Russian airstrikes to the south of the capital, near Vasylkiv, which is about 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) away, and Bila Tserkva, about 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) away.

According to Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Russia’s response to its loses is to continue building up troop numbers in neighboring Belarus, with many deployed from units in Russia’s east.

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."