March 27, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Steve George, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Hafsa Khalil, Joe Ruiz, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury and Eric Levenson, CNN

Updated 12:49 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022
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6:08 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

Red Cross rejects claims it's deporting Ukrainians to Russia

From CNN's Andrew Carey and Olga Voitovych in Lviv 

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has categorically rejected Ukrainian claims it has opened an office in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and is facilitating the deportation of Ukrainian citizens to Russia.

The ICRC, which generally keeps a low public profile, issued the statement following what it called “false information circulating online” that it was helping Russia move tens of thousands of people out of the country. 

“We never help organize or carry out forced evacuations. This is true in Ukraine. This is true for everywhere we work around the world. We would not support any operation that goes against people’s will,” the Red Cross tweeted. 

On Friday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk accused ICRC head Peter Maurer of taking a “very questionable decision” to open an office in Rostov – which lies about 37 miles (60 kilometers) from the border with Ukraine. Such an office “legitimized” Russia’s deportations, she suggested. 

In its statement, the Red Cross said it had no office in Rostov, but was, “scaling up our regional set up to be able respond to needs where we see them. Our priority is to ensure a steady supply of lifesaving aid reaches people, wherever they are.” 

On Saturday, Vereshchuk accused Russia of creating an “alternative humanitarian reality” by forcibly deporting 40,000 people from occupied parts of Ukraine. Last week, a senior Russian official said more than 62,000 people had been evacuated from Mariupol to protect them from what he said were the "bandits" fighting to keep the besieged city in Ukrainian hands. 

Ukrainian regional officials have also accused Russian forces of stopping and holding up bus convoys trying to evacuate civilians to Ukrainian-occupied territory – calling it a pressure campaign to force some people to Russia. 

5:13 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

Ukrainian morale high despite war's brutality, singer tells CNN

Ukrainian musician and frontman of popular rock band Okean Elzy Sviatoslav Vakarchuk.
Ukrainian musician and frontman of popular rock band Okean Elzy Sviatoslav Vakarchuk. (Sviatoslav Vakarchuk via Reuters)

Morale in Ukraine remains high despite over a month of brutal fighting and Russian bombardment, according to one of the country’s best-known singers who is traveling the country to lift spirits.

Speaking live to Hala Gorani from Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Sviatoslav Vakarchuk said despite his efforts to visit troops, patients in hospitals and civilians suffering through the war he “doesn’t have to raise morale because the morale is very high.”

“The whole country is fighting against Russia. United we are. We will win this war, no doubt for me. The only question is, what will be the price for that?” Vakarchuk told CNN.

Vakarchuk, who is the lead singer of popular band Okean Elzy, said his fans in Russia will find it hard to access his music in Putin’s "Orwellian" society. 

“They’ve been so brutally supressed, so all those who are against war are very silent.”

“I don’t know what to say to Russians anymore,” he said. “The only thing that can work now is harsh sanctions.”

4:29 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

Russia confirms missile strikes on targets in Lviv

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Mohammed Tawfeeq in Lviv

Firefighters try to extinguish the fire after Russian guided missiles hit a fuel storage facility in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 27.
Firefighters try to extinguish the fire after Russian guided missiles hit a fuel storage facility in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 27. (State Service of Ukraine for Emergency)

The Russian military on Sunday confirmed strikes on fuel depots on the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and outside of Kyiv, saying it had targeted fuel supplies for Ukrainian troops.

"On March 26, high-precision long-range air-launched weapons destroyed a large fuel base near the city of Lviv, which provided fuel for Ukrainian troops in the western regions of Ukraine, as well as near Kyiv," Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing Sunday.

Konashenkov confirmed a separate strike on Lviv Saturday, saying cruise missiles had targeted the workshops of the Lviv radio repair plant, which he claimed carried out the overhaul and modernization of Ukrainian weapons systems. 

Ukrainian authorities have confirmed the strike on the fuel base in Lviv. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said Sunday the fire that broke out at the fuel storage depot in Lviv had been extinguished at 6:49 a.m.. 

The mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, said in a post on Twitter on Sunday that it took firefighters 14 hours to put out the fire.

Separately, Konashenkov claimed that sea-launched weapons had targeted a Ukrainian missile storage facility 18 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Kyiv.

4:28 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

Berlin theater shows solidarity with Mariupol theater by writing "children" on entrance

From CNN's Radina Gigova 

(Ukrainian Embassy in Berlin)
(Ukrainian Embassy in Berlin)

Ahead of World Theater day on Sunday, the Deutsches Theater in Berlin showed solidarity with the destroyed Academic Drama Theater in Mariupol by writing the word "children" in front of its entrance, the Ukrainian Embassy in Berlin said on its official Facebook page Saturday.

Actors, activists, and Ukrainian diplomats in Berlin wrote "children" in large white letters, just as the same word was written in Russian on the ground outside the theater in Mariupol.

"This symbolized that Deutsches Theater Berlin stands together with the destroyed Academic Drama Theater of Mariupol," the Embassy said. "Together with the theater where children hid from the Russian bombings, while Mariupol cried out and pleaded to at least not drop bombs there by writing this word in large letters that could be seen from the air. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop the enemy."

Ukrainian authorities said nearly 300 people died and up to 1,300 people sought refuge at the theater on March 16 when it was bombed by Russian forces. CNN has been unable to verify the death toll. 

Russia has denied its forces hit the theater, claiming instead that it was blown up by the Ukrainian army's Azov Battalion.

Images published by the Ukrainian Embassy and video posted on the Deutsches Theater's Instagram account show how actors, activists and diplomats paint the letters, while a Ukrainian flag with the words "we stand united" hangs above the theater's entrance. 

A number of events dedicated to Mariupol took place on the six stages of the Deutsches Theater on Saturday for World Theater Day, the Embassy said. 

This post has been updated.

2:32 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

A look at some of the fighting from around Ukraine on Saturday

A Ukrainian soldier stands on top of a destroyed Russian armored personnel carrier after recent battle in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 26.
A Ukrainian soldier stands on top of a destroyed Russian armored personnel carrier after recent battle in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 26. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Missiles hit the western city of Lviv and Ukrainian counterattacks retook several villages from Russian forces on Saturday, according to local officials.

Here are some of the developments on the ground as of Saturday:

Lviv: The western city and cultural hub was hit by a series of airstrikes, with air raid sirens going on and off throughout the day. Three powerful blasts were heard in the center of the city, and plumes of thick black smoke could be seen rising in the distance. The missiles struck a fuel storage facility and a military infrastructure site, injuring at least five people. No deaths have been reported so far. Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi called for air defense of Ukraine after the strikes.

Kyiv: The city's Mayor Vitali Klitschko canceled an extended curfew planned for the capital. In a statement on Telegram, Klitschko said the curfew — planned to begin Saturday at 8:00 p.m. local time and run until 7:00 a.m. on Monday — would not be introduced. 

Suburbs in west and east of Kyiv: The Kyiv region's military administration said Saturday that suburbs to the west and east of the capital had come under Russian shellfire and in some districts Russian forces were digging in. The western suburbs of Маkariv, Bucha and Irpin were being shelled, and the community of Bilohorodka had come under rocket attack and missile strikes, according to Oleksandr Pavliuk, the head of the Kyiv regional military administration. Pavliuk added that Russian forces were attempting to fortify positions in Bucha and another western suburb, Nemishaeve.

Slavutych, north of Kyiv: Russian troops entered the city of Slavutych after several days of shelling, a move that sparked protests among hundreds of Ukrainian civilians. The city was built to house workers of the nearby Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said it was monitoring the situation.

Kharkiv: Ukrainian forces have staged a counteroffensive in areas around Ukraine's second-largest city Kharkiv, local officials said. A counterattack that began on Friday to the east of Kharkiv led to the recapture of several villages, according to the regional administrator Oleg Synegubov. He said a number of villages around Malaya Rogan were retaken by Ukrainian forces. The villages are roughly 20 kilometers (12 miles) from central Kharkiv, which has been nearly encircled by Russian forces since the early weeks of the invasion.

Ukrainian counterattacks: The success of Ukrainian forces around Kharkiv has been mirrored further north, near the city of Sumy, where Ukrainian troops have liberated a number of settlements, according to videos geolocated and verified by CNN. A separate counterattack in the south also led to the liberation of two villages from Russian forces northwest of Mariupol, according to the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration. And Ukrainian counterattacks north and west of the capital appeared to have made some headway earlier this week, with Ukrainian forces restoring control of the town of Makariv, some 40 miles west of Kyiv.

Chernihiv: The mayor of the northern city said Chernihiv is surrounded by Russian troops. There is no stable electricity supply, and water is delivered by volunteers as the water supply hasn't been fully restored. "The enemy consciously destroyed the only bridge connecting Chernihiv with a southern highway towards Kyiv," Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said. "There are currently no humanitarian corridors or any safe way to bring or supplies, aid or wounded in or out." He said the population has more than halved since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

1:55 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

Lviv was rocked by powerful explosions Saturday. Here's what we know

By CNN's Nathan Hodge, Julia Kesaieva and Lauren Said-Moorhouse

People watch smoke rising behind buildings following explosions in Lviv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 26.
People watch smoke rising behind buildings following explosions in Lviv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 26. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

At least five people were reportedly injured Saturday after a series of missiles struck Lviv, a city in western Ukraine, close to the Polish border, that had been previously spared the worst of Russia's brutal onslaught.

Here's what we know:

  • The mayor of Lviv,��Andriy Sadovyi, called for air defense for Ukraine after a series of Russian missiles hit the city.
  • He said the missiles were launched from Sevastopol, the largest city in Crimea.
  • One of the strikes hit a fuel storage facility, causing it to catch fire.
  • A later strike caused "significant damage" to the city's infrastructure facilities.
  • So far there have been no deaths at the first site of the missile strikes, according to Maksym Kozytskyi, head of the Lviv Regional Military Administration.
  • Kozytskyi said 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,” Kozytskyi said.
  • The attack came as US President Joe Biden was in Poland Saturday, where he met with his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, as well as Ukrainian officials and refugees.
  • Biden later delivered a speech outside the Royal Castle in the Polish capital of Warsaw, in which he declared forcefully that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power." The White House later clarified it was not a direct call for regime change.
  • Lviv is a strategic Ukrainian city close to the Polish border that has largely been spared from the relentless bombardment seen across much of the country during the Russian invasion.
  • The attack comes just a day after the Russian military said that the first phase of the conflict had ended and that it was shifting its attention to the disputed eastern parts of Ukraine.
  • Lviv is also the waypoint for hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Read the full story here.

12:47 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

Biden’s personal rivalry with Putin more intense than ever after dramatic final day of his Europe trip

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden delivers a speech about the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the Royal Castle, Saturday, March 26 in Warsaw, Poland.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech about the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the Royal Castle, Saturday, March 26 in Warsaw, Poland. (Evan Vucci/AP)

At nearly the same moment President Joe Biden declared him a “butcher,” Vladimir Putin’s missiles began falling in Lviv.

Sending black smoke and flames billowing into the air, and injuring at least five people, the strikes on a fuel depot pierced what had been relative calm in the western hub city that had seen relatively little of the war that has engulfed the nation.

The target hardly seemed coincidental. Biden was 250 miles away, visiting Ukrainian refugees in bitter cold at Poland’s national stadium. He heard pleas from young mothers to pray for the men – husbands, fathers, brothers – they had left behind.

When he returned to his hotel, aides briefed Biden on the strikes in Lviv. A few hours later, propelled by heartache and anger, Biden walked into the courtyard of an old Polish castle to declare the Russian President “cannot remain in power.”

The very final words Biden would utter on his last-minute swing through Europe ended up being the most consequential, reverberating widely as Air Force One departed for Washington. He left Europe more directly at odds with the Russian leader than ever.

Read the full story:

12:51 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

It's 6 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

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

US President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" during a speech in Poland and a Ukrainian city, which until now has been largely spared from Russian assault, was hit by missiles on Saturday.

Here are the latest developments in the war on Ukraine:

Missiles strike Lviv: The city's 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, close to the Polish border. At least five people were reportedly injured in Lviv, which been previously spared the worst of Russia's brutal onslaught, local officials said.

Biden's speech: In neighboring Poland, Biden declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" during a sweeping speech that called on democracies to stand together. The White House said afterward that it was not a call for regime change. The US President 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 also labeled Putin a "butcher" after visiting with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw earlier in the day. The US also said it intends to provide “an additional $100 million in civilian security assistance" to Ukraine.

Zelensky calls for more aid: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his plea for international partners to step up their military assistance, saying his country only asks for 1% of NATO's tanks and planes. In a Saturday video message, Zelensky said the need to strengthen common security in Europe was raised during his two conversations with Polish President Andrezj Duda Saturday. 

Ukrainian counterattacks: Ukrainian officials say the country's military has retaken several villages from Russian troops in a series of counterattacks. Kharkiv's regional administrator said a number of villages around Malaya Rogan were retaken by Ukrainian forces and video shows Ukrainian troops in control of Vilkhivka, one of the settlements. The success of Ukrainian forces around Kharkiv has been mirrored further north, near the city of Sumy, where Ukrainian troops have liberated a number of settlements, according to videos geolocated and verified by CNN. A separate counterattack in the south also led to the liberation of two villages from Russian forces northwest of Mariupol, according to the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration.

Captured city: Zelensky said Russia will not "subdue" the captured Slavutych, after Russian forces entered the city Saturday following days of fighting. The city was built to house workers of the nearby Chornobyl nuclear power plant and hundreds of locals amassed in the city square protesting the arrival of the troops. Russian forces briefly detained the city's mayor but eventually released him, according to a statement from Ukrainian political party Sluha Narodu. 

Evacuations: Two seriously injured children and an infant with pneumonia were among 5,208 people evacuated Saturday, the deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine said. Among them were 4,331 residents of the besieged city of Mariupol, who reached the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia. It came as Ukrainian authorities said 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. 

11:42 p.m. ET, March 26, 2022

Ukraine says counterattack east of Kharkiv recaptures villages from Russian forces

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Tim Lister and Josh Pennington

(From Telegram)
(From Telegram)

A Ukrainian counterattack that began on Friday to the east of the city of Kharkiv has led to the recapture of several villages, according to the regional administrator.  

CNN has geolocated and verified a video showing Ukrainian troops in control of Vilkhivka, one of the settlements that's roughly 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the Russian border in Ukraine's northeast.

Oleg Synegubov, Kharkiv regional administrator, said that a number of villages around Malaya Rogan were retaken by Ukrainian forces. The villages are roughly 20 kilometers (12 miles) from central Kharkiv, which has been nearly encircled by Russian forces since the early weeks of the invasion.

Video shows firefight: Additional video, published on Telegram Saturday, shows an intense firefight between Ukrainian forces — including members of the Azov Battalion — and Russian forces in the village of Vilkhivka. The Azov Battalion began as an ultra-nationalist militia in eastern Ukraine, and has since been absorbed into the Ukrainian military.

In the video, the firefights between Russian and Ukrainian forces are seen among the houses and backyards of the village. At one point, Ukrainian troops move toward the village school, where Russian forces appear to be holed up.

The soldier who uploaded the edited the video, claimed on Telegram the battalion had killed "about 70 troops," and commandeered a number of Russian military vehicles. CNN could not confirm the Russian military deaths, or the vehicle captures.

Claims of Russian prisoners: The soldier also claimed the battalion took 27 Russian troops prisoner. In the edited video, a number of apparently captured Russian soldiers are seen blindfolded and some are stripped of most of their clothes.

They are seen in the video being crammed into the back of cars and trucks and driven away by members of the battalion. Some were clearly injured.

Ukrainian counterattacks: The success of Ukrainian forces around Kharkiv has been mirrored further north, near the city of Sumy, where Ukrainian troops have liberated a number of settlements, according to videos geolocated and verified by CNN. A separate counterattack in the south about 63 miles (103 kilometers) northwest of Mariupol also led to the liberation of two villages from Russian forces, according to the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration.