March 26, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Barry Neild, Adrienne Vogt, Joe Ruiz and Ray Sanchez, CNN

Updated 12:04 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022
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12:01 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Mayor of Ukrainian city freed after Russian detention, according to political party

From CNN staff and Olga Voitovych

The mayor of the northern Ukrainian city of Slavutych was released by Russian forces Saturday after being detained, the Ukrainian political party Sluha Narodu said in a statement. 

"The abducted mayor of Slavutych is already at large," a statement said. "Rallies [against the Russians] continue in the city."

Russian troops on Saturday entered the city, which was built for workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, sparking protests by residents. 

In a video posted on Facebook, Mayor Yuri Fomichev was shown addressing residents on Saturday and telling them that they would have to "communicate with the occupiers" after Russian troops entered the town. Fomichev told residents the Russians would search for weapons but would leave the center of the city.

"They will check whether there is a weapon or whether someone is hiding with it. They will go to the police, they will go to the military recruitment office. It’s clear. They will do a spin [through town] here until noon. After lunch, they have to leave the city. There will be one checkpoint, and they will not be in the city. We are governing the city ourselves," he said.  

Fomichev added: "If someone needs to leave the city, we will agree on the procedure. We realize that now we must communicate with the occupiers. There is no other option. We do not have ... machine guns, grenade launchers, missiles, tanks. ... We do have hands, brains and hearts. This is the main thing we have. And love for Ukraine, for Slavutych!"

1:02 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Russian forces carried out strike near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, according to regional official

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva and CNN staff in Lviv

Smoke rises above Lviv, Ukraine on March 26.
Smoke rises above Lviv, Ukraine on March 26. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces struck near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, without providing extensive details. 

Maksym Kozytsky, head of Lviv regional military administration, said: "There were three powerful explosions near Lviv from the Velyki Kryvchytsi side, now there is an air alarm, so keep calm and stay in shelter."

"The Russian army struck at Lviv," Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on Twitter. "We are waiting for information from the Military Administration. Stay in the shelters." 

The blasts were audible on the street in center of Lviv. 

Sadovyi warned in a followup tweet that there could be more strikes after explosions were heard in the city.

"It is possible that shelling will be repeated. Stay in the shelter!" the mayor tweeted.

At least two missiles struck Lviv Saturday, and there are reports of at least five people injured, according to Kozytsky.

He added there are still threats for more missile strikes, according to a post on his official Facebook account.

"Information about what was involved in a residential building or other infrastructure objects was not confirmed," Kozytsky said.

11:55 a.m. ET, March 26, 2022

London's mayor "embarrassed" by UK's response in helping Ukrainian refugees

From CNN's Peirre Meilhan

London Mayor Sadiq Khan speaks to the media ahead of a solidarity march for Ukraine on March 26 in London.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan speaks to the media ahead of a solidarity march for Ukraine on March 26 in London. (Aaron Chown/PA Images/Getty Images)

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the British government has “got to make it far easier” for Ukrainian refugees to come to the United Kingdom.

Khan, in an interview with talk radio station Leading Britain's Conversation, added that he is “embarrassed” by the UK’s response so far compared to other countries in Europe on the issue of refugees.

“There’s a disconnect between the actions of Brits and the actions of Londoners and the actions of our government and those in Parliament, as you have seen people across the country, including in London, opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees. You have seen the massive generosity in relation to donations,” Khan said, as he contrasted this with how “it is really hard though for Ukrainians to come here.”

Earlier in the day, Khan attended the London Stands With Ukraine march in solidarity with Ukrainians and to protest Russia’s invasion of the country.

More than 3.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion, the United Nations' Refugee Agency said Friday.

11:06 a.m. ET, March 26, 2022

US is considering sanctioning Russian companies that make supplies for the military, sources say

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

The United States is considering sanctioning Russian companies that make supplies for the Russian military, sources familiar with the option tell CNN, though an official decision hasn't been made. 

After meeting with top US officials in Warsaw on Saturday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said they believed officials in US President Joe Biden's administration were "keen to move on with further sanctions."

1:14 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Biden says Putin is "a butcher" after speaking with refugees

From CNN's Kyle Blaine

US President Joe Biden speaks at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland on March 26.
US President Joe Biden speaks at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland on March 26. (Marcin Obara/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

US President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "butcher" after visiting with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday.

Asked by reporters traveling with the President what seeing the refugees made him think as he deals with Putin every day, Biden responded, "he's a butcher."

During the brief question-and-answer session at Stadion Narodowy, Biden recounted how he had been to places like this in his life, but said he is always surprised by "the depth and strength of the human spirit." 

"It's incredible, it's incredible. See all those little children. Just want to hug, just want to say thanks. I mean, it's, just makes you so damn proud," he said.

He added: "Each one of those children said something to the effect, 'Say a prayer for my dad or my grandfather or my brother who's back there fighting.' And I remember what it's like when you have someone in a war zone. Every morning you get up and you wonder. You just wonder. And you pray you don't get that phone call."

Kremlin's reaction: The Kremlin responded to Biden's comments in Warsaw, saying his remarks "narrow the window of opportunity" to repair US-Russia relations, according to Russian state news agency TASS. 

Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told TASS that "the leader of a nation must keep a sober head."

"Of course, every time these personal insults narrow the window of opportunity for our bilateral relations under the current [US] administration. One has to be aware of this," Peskov said, according to TASS.

-CNN's Chandler Thornton contributed reporting to this post.

11:23 a.m. ET, March 26, 2022

CNN team hears blasts and air raid sirens, sees smoke near Lviv

From CNN's Jennifer Hauser

Smoke rises above Lviv, Ukraine on March 26.
Smoke rises above Lviv, Ukraine on March 26. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

CNN's John Berman saw smoke rising from behind a hill near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Ukraine, on Saturday afternoon following a series of three blasts.

"We don't see any strikes in the city itself per se, but smoke rising from the horizon back behind that hill following three large blasts," Berman told viewers.

Earlier, the CNN team heard air raid sirens. 

US President Joe Biden is in Warsaw, which is 400 kilometers (roughly 250 miles) from Lviv.

11:04 a.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Biden calls Ukrainian refugees "brave" while meeting them in Poland

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian refugees and humanitarian aid workers on March 26 in Warsaw, Poland.
President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian refugees and humanitarian aid workers on March 26 in Warsaw, Poland. (Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden spent time with refugees in Warsaw Saturday, meeting with families who were forced to leave Ukraine. 

One woman Biden spoke with told him she was there with her daughter, but her husband and son are back in Ukraine fighting. 

“It’s frightening,” Biden told her. 

The woman, via a translator, spoke about the horror her family has endured and said that “Ukrainian mothers are ready to strangle [Russian President Vladimir Putin] with our bare hands.”

Biden then picked up a little girl in a pink jacket and took out what appeared to be his own phone and took a selfie with her and her family there. The President said he doesn’t speak Ukrainian, but he wanted someone to tell the girl that “I want to take her home.” 

“Thank you for everything,” they repeatedly told Biden. 

“You’re all brave, brave, brave,” Biden told the family. 

10:48 a.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Here's what Biden has said today in Warsaw ahead of a "major address" about Ukraine

US President Joe Biden participates in an arrival ceremony with Polish President Andrzej Duda on March 26 in Warsaw, Poland.
US President Joe Biden participates in an arrival ceremony with Polish President Andrzej Duda on March 26 in Warsaw, Poland. (Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden is wrapping up his high-stakes foreign trip in Poland, where he met with Ukrainian officials and the Polish president.

Biden is meeting with Ukrainian refugees before delivering what the White House is billing as a "major address" this afternoon.

The US President, while holding talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda, said that peace in Europe is directly related to stability in the United States, adding that lack of some actions in two world wars "has come back to haunt us." Biden also called NATO's Article 5 "a sacred commitment."

Earlier, Biden stopped into a meeting between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and their American counterparts, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Reznikov said he feels cautiously optimistic after the meeting.

The United States has made assurances that there will be additional defense support for Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

Biden's trip comes off the heels of a series of emergency summits this week in Brussels.

After those summits, Biden said he supported ejecting Russia from another summit, the Group of 20, which is scheduled to convene in November, though other members of that grouping would have to sign on. And he issued a vague warning that the United States would respond to potential chemical weapons use on the battlefield.

But he maintained his view that direct US military intervention in Ukraine would result in catastrophe and defended a sanctions regime that so far has not stopped Russian President Vladimir Putin from intensifying his assault.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post.

10:35 a.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Ukrainian defense minister says he has "cautious optimism" after meeting with US officials

From CNN's Chandler Thornton

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he feels cautiously optimistic following his meeting with US counterpart Lloyd Austin, President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken Saturday.

"I asses my & @DmytroKuleba meeting with @POTUS, @SecDef, @SecBlinken with cautious optimism," Reznikov said in a tweet, adding there is "mutual struggle with a common enemy."

Reznikov said he and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba discussed with the US officials "urgent needs" of the Ukrainian army.

Reznikov and Kuleba met with the US officials in Warsaw earlier Saturday, where Kuleba said the US promised additional defense support for Ukraine.