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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5:23 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Sean Penn: "Ukraine will win this fight"

CNN staff

 American actor Sean Penn speaks during a press conference on the agreeement of co-operation between the City of Rzeszow and the CORE foundation, on March 25, in Rzeszow, Poland.
 American actor Sean Penn speaks during a press conference on the agreeement of co-operation between the City of Rzeszow and the CORE foundation, on March 25, in Rzeszow, Poland. (Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Actor and filmmaker Sean Penn, speaking with CNN's Jim Acosta from Warsaw, Poland, predicted today Ukraine "will win this fight."

"No question in my mind," said Penn, who was reportedly in the Ukraine working on a documentary when Russian forces invaded. "And the question will be, where will we be when they did."

Penn, who founded the charity CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, said he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and praised the country's "extraordinary courage and unification."

"What I would say is, I can't imagine any human being would have fully known that they were born for this moment until this moment would have happened," he said of the Ukrainian president.

Penn also said he hopes the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes the Ukrainian crisis when it presents the Oscars tomorrow, possibly by allowing Zelensky to speak via a video link.

"There is nothing greater that the Academy Awards could do than to give him that opportunity to talk to all of us," Penn said.

4:33 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Biden speaks with Belarusian opposition leader Tsikhanouskaya 

From CNN’s Sam Fossum

President Joe Biden delivers a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland on March 26.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland on March 26. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden spoke via phone with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya today aboard Air Force One and thanked her for attending his speech in Warsaw, according to the White House. 

"The President underscored the continued support of the United States for the Belarusian people in defending and advancing human rights, including freedom of expression, and free and fair elections," according to the White House readout. 

4:08 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Mayor of Lviv calls for air defense for Ukraine after Russian missiles strike city 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

Smoke rises after an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues on March 26, in Lviv, Ukraine.
Smoke rises after an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues on March 26, in Lviv, Ukraine. (Vladyslav Sodel/Reuters)

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi called for air defense of Ukraine after a series of Russian missiles struck a fuel storage facility and a military infrastructure site in the western Ukrainian city on Saturday. 

"We don't know the targets of the Russian missiles, who were launched from the city of Sevastopol today. And so often today they hit not only Lviv but also other sites in our country. We are all in the same situation, the sooner we have better quality weapons as well as air defense, the safer our cities and citizens including you will be," Sadovyi told a press briefing on Saturday evening. 

The "sooner we have air defense in Ukraine, the sooner we'll have victory," he added. 

Sadovyi wrapped up the briefing by asking those listening to "go into the shelter right away," stressing "we don't know what is going to happen now."

3:54 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

No deaths reported at first site of missile strike in Lviv, according to regional official

From CNN's Olena Mankovska and Hira Humayun

So far, there have been no deaths at the first site of the missile strikes on Lviv, said Maksym Kozytsky, the head of the Lviv regional military administration, at a press briefing on Saturday.

According to Kozytsky, two sites were hit: a fuel storage facility and one of the military infrastructures. Each site was hit with two strikes and both are located in residential quarters.

Five people from the fuel storage site need medical care, he said.

“There are no casualties in the first site, and in the second site, we are still trying to put out the fire,” Kozytsky said.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said “this is the second hit over the last week, and we can clearly see that they were very targeted strikes on the infrastructure and the destruction is serious," at the briefing. "Shock of the blast also damaged a kindergarten, a school, and luckily there are no casualties.”

“We do have some wounded, and I believe this is how the aggressor is saying hello to President Biden who is in Poland now, and we know Lviv is only 70 kilometers (40 miles) from Poland, so all of the world needs to understand the threat is serious,” Sadovyi said.

4:01 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

It's 10 p.m. in Kyiv. Catch up here

Firefighters battle a blaze at an industrial facility after a Russian military attack in the area on March 26, in Lviv, Ukraine.
Firefighters battle a blaze at an industrial facility after a Russian military attack in the area on March 26, in Lviv, Ukraine. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As the end of Saturday nears in Ukraine, here's what you need to know.

Strikes in Lviv: There have been multiple strikes by Russia's military in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, according to local officials. There are reports of at least five people injured, according to Maksym Kozytsky, head of the Lviv regional military administration. So far, there have been no deaths at the first site of the missile strikes on Lviv, he said.

An industrial facility used for fuel storage was struck, with CNN's team on the ground observing a blazing fire and thick black smoke rising from the site.

Biden's speech: In neighboring Poland, US President Joe Biden declared forcefully in a speech that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power," but the White House said afterward that it was not a call for regime change.

Biden also said that Russia has "strangled democracy" in its invasion of Ukraine and warned Putin to not "even think about moving on one single inch of NATO territory.” He assured the Ukrainian people that he and the US "stand with you."

The US President also labeled Putin a "butcher" after visiting with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw earlier in the day.

US and Ukrainian officials meet: Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he feels "cautious optimism" following his meeting with US counterpart Lloyd Austin, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Poland on Saturday. The United States has made assurances that there will be additional defense support for Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. 

The US will provide “an additional $100 million in civilian security assistance" to Ukraine, Blinken said in a statement later Saturday.

Evacuation buses held, Ukraine says: Ukrainian authorities said Saturday that bus convoys trying to evacuate civilians were being stopped and held by Russian forces, as part of what they claimed to be a pressure campaign to force some residents to go to Russia. 

3:21 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

US secretary of state announces $100M in new security assistance to Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Smoke billows from an industrial facility after a Russian military attack in the area on March 26, in Lviv, Ukraine.
Smoke billows from an industrial facility after a Russian military attack in the area on March 26, in Lviv, Ukraine. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Saturday that the United States intends to provide “an additional $100 million in civilian security assistance" to Ukraine.

The money is intended "to enhance the capacity of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs to provide essential border security, sustain civil law enforcement functions, and safeguard critical governmental infrastructure in the face of President Putin’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack,” according to the statement.

"The increased funding will continue a steady flow of personal protection equipment, field gear, tactical equipment, medical supplies, armored vehicles, and communication equipment for the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service and the National Police of Ukraine," the statement said.

3:09 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Russian forces stop and hold civilian evacuation buses, according to Ukrainian regional authorities

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva and staff in Lviv

Ukrainian authorities said Saturday that bus convoys trying to evacuate civilians were being stopped and held by Russian forces, as part of what they claimed to be a pressure campaign to force some residents to go to Russia. 

In a statement, Oleksandr Starukh, the head of the Zaporizhzhia regional administration, said an evacuation convoy of more than 50 buses driving from the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia was held overnight at a Russian checkpoint in Vasylivka, about 35 miles south of Zaporizhzhia. Starukh said the convoy included two ambulances carrying three children requiring urgent medical care. 

Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russians were holding thousands of Mariupol evacuees near Vasylivka in poor conditions without food and water. Some of the residents looking to flee Mariupol, Andriushchenko claimed, were being taken directly to the city of Donetsk — which is under Russian control — and then onward into the Russia. 

CNN could not independently verify those reports, but Andriushchenko said any announcement of evacuation routes from Mariupol could be a potential "trap," as there were no routes from government-held Ukraine into the city.

2:57 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

EU’s Borrell says Gulf countries aren't "the only” global gas producers as Europe looks for energy substitutes

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Doha

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell attends a plenary session titled "Transforming for a New Era", during the Doha Forum in Qatar's capital on March 26.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell attends a plenary session titled "Transforming for a New Era", during the Doha Forum in Qatar's capital on March 26. (Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images)

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said “supplies of gas are not only in the Gulf” while at the Doha Forum on Saturday.

“The Gulf is a big provider of gas, but it is not the only one, in fact today our inflows of gas are not coming from the Gulf,” Borrell said in response to a question on Gulf oil and gas producers saying they will not provide more supply to the energy market.  

In the face of energy uncertainty, Qatar has been approached by some European countries to supply more liquified natural gas (LNG), but the only way Qatar can replace Russian gas imports to Europe is by diverting cargo from other customers who have signed long term contracts, such as those in Asia, something it hasn't been willing to do. By doing so it may incur compensation claims from those buyers.

Instead, Qatar’s Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi told CNN’s Becky Anderson on Thursday that the gas-rich country will stand “in solidarity” with Europe by not diverting away current gas contracts.

Al-Kaabi also told the forum on Saturday that they have been working on bringing more volume into Europe over the next few years, but 85% of today’s volume is non-divertible gas contracts to Asian customers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Qatar and other countries to increase oil and gas output to avoid Russia’s global “blackmail,” during a surprise virtual appearance at the conference. 

US President Joe Biden and his counterpart at the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Friday announced a joint task force aimed at finding alternative supplies of LNG and reducing overall demand for natural gas moving forward.

2:31 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Ukrainian deputy foreign minister repeats calls for collective security agreement for Ukraine

From CNN’s Adam Pourahmadi in Doha

Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova on Saturday repeated calls for a collective security agreement to protect Ukraine, comprised of the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany and Turkey. 

Dzhaparova said during an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson in Doha that she met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Saturday morning to discuss potential negotiations. 

“What actually can be performed of a draft of these security guarantees? We believe it’s P5+2 countries, Germany and Turkey, and then there could be an agreement signed…and the logic behind would be the same logic as Article 5 of the NATO charter has, meaning that in case Ukraine will be attacked, these countries will have to protect Ukraine,” she said.                 

The permanent members Security Council include Russia, China, the United States, the United Kingdom and France. 

“This is something that is now under consideration for discussion as a suggestion of my country,” she said. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that any deal with Russia will require the Ukrainian people to approve it through a referendum. The deputy foreign minister said that is "under consideration, but because of the war, it’s quite difficult to understand what is the technical way to have any kind of referendum.”

“We are trying to open up every single window that is there. We’ve been requesting many countries including Turkey, Israel, Prime Minister Bennett has also performed certain efforts,” she said.