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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9:14 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

Macron reacts to Biden calling Putin a "butcher"

From CNN's Sarah Diab in London

French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to warn against labeling Putin on Sunday. 

"I wouldn't use terms like that because I'm still in talks with President Putin,” Macron said during an interview on French Channel France 3.

This comes comes after US President Joe Biden issued intense criticism against the Russian leader during a meeting with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, Poland on Saturday.

After initially looking to downplay a personal rivalry between himself and Putin, Biden has ramped up his rhetoric against Putin over the last 10 days. Last week, Biden for the first time called Putin a "war criminal" and then later referred to him as a "murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine." He's also called the Russian invasion of Ukraine "inhumane." 

Macron added: "Our goal is to stop the war Russia launched in Ukraine, while avoiding a war and escalation."

Before the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Macron emerged as a central figure in Europe's diplomatic efforts to diffuse the situation between Moscow and the West. The French leader repeatedly engaged with Putin to try and avert the war.

This post has been updated.

8:05 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

Donetsk separatist leader says around 1,700 civilians "evacuated" daily to Russia

Fom CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Olga Voitovych in Lviv

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the pro-Russian Donetsk People's Republic, said Sunday that around 1,700 people were being "evacuated" daily from the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and other towns "to the Volodar temporary accommodation center for evacuees."

"In turn, the same number of people are leaving it," Pushilin said in a statement on Telegram, referring to a settlement known as Nikolske, about 13 miles (21 kilometers) northwest of Mariupol. 

"Residents of Mariupol and other settlements that are being liberated from the occupation of the Kyiv regime arrive here," Pushilin said. "People are provided with basic necessities, medical care, and then evacuated to the Russian Federation."

Ukrainian officials have accused the Russian government of engaging in a policy of deportation, moving civilians into the Russian Federation against their will.  

On Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the Ukrainian government estimated the number of Ukrainians forcibly deported to Russia since the beginning of the war on February 24 to be nearly 40,000.  

She previously accused the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of taking a “very questionable decision” to open an office in Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia, saying the office “legitimized” Russia’s deportation, a claim the ICRC rejected. 

7:46 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

Russia blocks access to Germany's Bild website

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Nina Avramova

Russia has blocked access to the website of German newspaper Bild, according to state media outlet RIA Novosti.

A reason for the move was not immediately given.

Restriction of the website came at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office, with Russia's communications regulator Roskomnadzor implementing the decision, RIA reported.

In a statement emailed to CNN, the newspaper's editor-in-chief Johannes Boie say Bild "reports around the clock on Putin's war of aggression in Ukraine, in German and increasingly also in Russian. Russian censors‘ decisions to block our website confirms our journalistic work for democracy, freedom and human rights."

Boie continued: "And their decision motivates us further to give Russian citizens even more opportunities to find news and facts beyond Russian government propaganda.“

Bild is a widely read newspaper in Germany, reaching "more than 13.5 million people daily," according to a spokesperson for the publication.

Related content:

7:47 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

1,000 choirs in Europe and Latin America sing for peace in Ukraine

From CNN’s Al Goodman in Madrid 

People hold signs as choirs participate in the ''Coros por la Paz'' (Choirs for Peace) concert,  at the Juan Goytisolo Square in Madrid, Spain on March 27. The signs read: ''Peace.''
People hold signs as choirs participate in the ''Coros por la Paz'' (Choirs for Peace) concert, at the Juan Goytisolo Square in Madrid, Spain on March 27. The signs read: ''Peace.'' (Javier Barbancho/Reuters)

Choirs for Peace, a group founded just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, says it mustered 1,000 choirs to sing for peace on Sunday, on streets and squares in Spain, Portugal and eight other nations, organizers told CNN. 

A total of 805 choirs in Spain, 160 in Portugal, and 52 in eight other nations in Europe and Latin America signed up to sing in 185 cities, mainly at midday local time according to the group’s website, corosporlapaz.org. The website streamed a live signal of the singing from dozens of Spanish cities, with the marquee event in central Madrid.  

“Choirs for Peace was born as a result of the war in Ukraine. It’s asking for peace in Ukraine and all of the other forgotten wars in the world,” Spanish journalist Juan Ignacio Garcia Mostazo, a participant in one of the Madrid choirs, told CNN. 

He said the group was founded on March 5 when some choirs in Madrid sang for peace in the Ukraine war. Since then, the movement has expanded. 

The principal song that all of the choirs were singing Sunday was Dona Nobis Pacem in Latin (Give Us Peace), Mariano Garcia, general coordinator of the group and a choral director in Madrid, told CNN. 

“It’s to remember that the (Ukraine) war is very close,” Garcia said. 

Choirs from the United Kingdom, Italy, Luxembourg, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela also signed up to participate, the group’s website said. 

The group’s name, Coros por la Paz, on its website bears the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. 

7:40 a.m. ET, March 27, 2022

It's 2 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN’s Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Larry Register

Sunday mass at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Catholic Church in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 27.
Sunday mass at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Catholic Church in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 27. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine has reclaimed several villages from Russian forces in a series of counterattacks, including to the east of Kharkiv and northwest of Mariupol, after Russian missiles struck the western city of Lviv on Saturday.

Here are the latest developments in the war on Ukraine:

Ukrainian counterattacks: Kharkiv's regional administrator said a number of villages around Malaya Rogan were retaken by Ukrainian forces. Video verified by CNN shows Ukrainian troops in control of Vilkhivka, one of the settlements roughly 20 miles from the Russian border. 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.

Lviv strikes: The Russian military on Sunday confirmed strikes on fuel depots on Lviv and outside of Kyiv Saturday, saying it had targeted fuel supplies for Ukrainian troops. At least five people were reportedly injured after at least two missiles struck Lviv, a city in western Ukraine that had been previously spared the worst of Russia's brutal onslaught.

Biden speech: The US President said Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" during a speech in Poland Saturday. The White House followed up, saying that it was not a direct call for regime change. Biden is now back in DC.

Zelensky calls for more aid: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeated his plea to international partners for stronger military assistance, saying his country is only asking for 1% of NATO's tanks and planes. In a video message posted to social media Saturday, Zelensky said the need to strengthen common security in Europe was raised during his two conversations with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Red Cross deportation claims: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has categorically denied Ukrainian claims it has opened an office in the Russian city of Rostov on Don and is thereby 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. 

Evacuations: More than 5,200 people escaped through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, according to Ukrainian officials. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said two seriously injured children and an infant with pneumonia were among 4,331 residents who fled the besieged city of Mariupol, reaching the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia. The evacuations came amid reports from Ukrainian authorities Saturday that bus convoys were being held by Russian forces, as part of what they called a pressure campaign to force some residents to Russia. 

Captured city: The Ukrainian president also said Russia will not "subdue" Slavutych after Russian forces entered the city Saturday following days of fighting. The city was built to house workers of the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Hundreds of residents congregated in its main square to protest the arrival of troops. Russian forces briefly detained the city's mayor but eventually released him, a statement from Ukrainian political party Sluha Narodu said.

CNN’s Julia Kesaieva, Nathan Hodge, Paul P. Murphy, Tim Lister, Josh Pennington, Olena Mankovska and Hira Humayun contributed to this post.

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.