March 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Travis Caldwell, Helen Regan, Amy Woodyatt, Maureen Chowdhury, Jason Kurtz and Kathryn Snowdon, CNN

Updated 0403 GMT (1203 HKT) March 29, 2022
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11:57 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

It's Monday evening in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

Russian airstrikes continue across Ukraine a day before representatives from Russia and Ukraine are set to meet in Turkey for another round of talks. In an interview with Russian independent journalists Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country is “ready” to discuss adopting a neutral status, despite the Kremlin providing little hope for an agreement that would end five weeks of fighting.

Any agreement would have to be put to the Ukrainian people in a referendum, Ukraine's president said. But Zelensky once again stressed his desire to reach a concrete peace agreement. Zelensky reacted to Russia's attempt to censor his interview with Russian journalists, saying Moscow was "frightened" from journalists "who can tell the truth."  

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military intelligence head said Russian President Vladimir Putin could be looking to carve Ukraine in two – like North and South Korea. Russia’s operations around Kyiv have failed and it was now impossible for the Russian army to overthrow the Ukrainian government, he said. Putin’s war has now focused on the south and the east of the country, the official added. 

Here are more of the latest developments from the Russia-Ukraine conflict:

  • Russia's military attempting to establish a "corridor" around Kyiv: Ukraine's deputy defense minister said Monday that Russian forces were attempting to establish a "corridor" around the Ukrainian capital to block supply routes, amid continued fighting around Kyiv's suburbs. "The enemy is trying to make a corridor around Kyiv and block transport routes," Hanna Maliar, Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister, in televised remarks. "The defense of Kyiv continues. Ground forces, Air Assault Forces, special operations forces, territorial defense are involved." The Kyiv regional military administration said in a statement Monday that areas around the western suburbs of Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel and Makariv as well as the route from and to the city of Zhytomyr to the west and areas north of Vyshhorod remained very dangerous and prone to shelling by Russian forces.
  • Heavy fighting continues in Mariupol: Most of Russia’s military gains near the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol are in the southern areas, according to the UK’s latest intelligence update. "Russia has gained most ground in the South in the vicinity of Mariupol where heavy fighting continues as Russia attempts to capture the port," the UK Ministry of Defence said on Twitter Monday. The mayor of the besieged port of Mariupol said Ukrainian forces were still defending the city and accused the Russian military of committing “genocide.” Zelensky on Sunday called the Russian siege of the port city of Mariupol a "humanitarian catastrophe," claiming that Russian forces had taken over 2,000 children out of the city as part of what Ukrainian officials have described as a wave of civilian deportations to Russia.
  • Mariupol mayor calls for "complete evacuation" of the city: The mayor of Mariupol also provided an update Monday, saying his city was "in the hands of the occupiers" after a weeks-long siege by Russian forces that flattened the city, left an unknown number of civilians dead and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. "Not everything is in our power," said Vadym Boichenko, the pro-government mayor of Mariupol, in a live television interview. "Unfortunately, we are in the hands of hands of the occupiers today." Boichenko called for a "complete evacuation" of the remaining population of Mariupol.
  • Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta suspends publication after second warning: The independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta says it is suspending publication until the end of the war in Ukraine. It comes after Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor issued a second warning Monday to the newspaper following its interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Sunday. “We received another warning from Roskomnadzor. After that, we are suspending the publication of the newspaper on the website, in digital and in print, until the end of the ‘special operation on the territory of Ukraine'," the Novaya Gazeta editorial board said in a statement.
  • Russia says talks likely to continue in Turkey on Tuesday: Russia-Ukraine talks are set to resume in-person in Istanbul, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday during a news conference. "These negotiations are ongoing. They will be resumed today-tomorrow in Istanbul in-person after a series of video conferences," Lavrov said. "And we are interested that these negotiations would bring a result and that this result would achieve our fundamental goals," he said. "The fact that it was decided to continue negotiations in person is important," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday during a call with journalists. Peskov said the negotiations between the two sides are likely to resume Tuesday.
  • Heineken to pull out of Russia: Dutch brewer Heineken said Monday it will exit the Russian market amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "Following the previously announced strategic review of our operations, we have concluded that HEINEKEN’s ownership of the business in Russia is no longer sustainable nor viable in the current environment. As a result, we have decided to leave Russia," the company said in a press release. Heineken had already halted new investments and exports to Russia and had stopped the sale, production and advertising of its Heineken brand beer in the country.

10:38 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Mayor tells CNN that Ukraine has reclaimed Kyiv suburb Irpin from Russian forces

From CNN's Daria Markina and Vasco Cotovio in Kyiv

The mayor of Irpin, a suburb of the capital of Kyiv, said they have reclaimed the area from Russian forces.

“Irpin was freed last night. Now we need to clear the town totally. There are wounded Russian soldiers. They are offering to surrender or they will be destroyed. Irpin is a staging area for an attack. We will [next] liberate Bucha, Vorzel and Hostomel," Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn told CNN on Tuesday.

CNN cannot independently verify the claim.

10:47 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Analysis: The state of Russian forces and tactics as their offensive in Ukraine gets derailed

Analysis by CNN's Tim Lister, Paul P. Murphy and Celine Alkhaldi

Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a destroyed Russian armored personal carrier (APC) on the frontline in the northern part of Kyiv region on March 28.
Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a destroyed Russian armored personal carrier (APC) on the frontline in the northern part of Kyiv region on March 28. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Just over a month after the first ballistic missiles slammed into Kyiv's international airport, the Russian campaign has been disrupted and derailed by Ukrainian resistance — and in the last few days by agile Ukrainian counterattacks on several fronts.

Russian forces retain considerable — but not overwhelming — numerical superiority. Their armored groups have struggled against Western-supplied anti-tank weapons and Turkish-made drones. Ukrainian air defenses have punched above their weight and are now being reinforced by thousands of US-made Stinger missiles.

Poor logistical support, questionable tactics and growing evidence of poor morale among Russian battalion tactical groups have allowed the Ukrainian military to hold off Russian advances in several regions — and begin to take the fight to the enemy.

CNN analysis of satellite imagery, social media content and official statements from both sides suggests the conflict may now be moving into a new phase: a war of attrition in which the Russians may lose more ground than they gain and suffer even greater resupply issues as the Ukrainians cut into their extended lines.

There are indications that the Russian military is trying to compensate for this by greater use of missile forces and indirect fire from artillery and multiple launch rocket systems. To the north and west of Kyiv, for example, the Russians appear to be digging in rather than seeking to advance, shelling areas like Irpin and Makariv, where Ukrainian troops have established a tenuous hold.

In the last two weeks, there's been an uptick in Russian missile strikes, from Lviv in the west to Zhytomyr in central Ukraine and Mykolaiv in the south, with prime targets being fuel dumps, military depots and airfields.

Read more about Russia's position in key Ukrainian cities and the Kremlin's shifting tactics.

11:35 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Mariupol mayor calls for "complete evacuation" of the city

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Julia Presniakova in Lviv 

Local resident Valentina Demura, 70, next to her apartment building in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 27.
Local resident Valentina Demura, 70, next to her apartment building in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 27. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The mayor of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol said Monday his city was "in the hands of the occupiers" after a weekslong siege by Russian forces that flattened the city, left an unknown number of civilians dead and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. 

"Not everything is in our power," said Vadym Boichenko, the pro-government mayor of Mariupol, in a live television interview. "Unfortunately, we are in the hands of hands of the occupiers today."

Boichenko called for a "complete evacuation" of the remaining population of Mariupol, which had a population of over 400,000 before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

"According to our estimates, about 160,000 people are in the besieged city of Mariupol today, where it is impossible to live because there is no water, no electricity, no heat, no connection," he said. "And it's really scary."

It was unclear if there was still active fighting inside the city.

Ukrainian officials have alleged that Russian forces have prevented humanitarian convoys from safely approaching or exiting the city. A pro-Russian separatist leader on Sunday said about 1,700 Mariupol residents were being "evacuated" daily from the city and its surroundings, but Ukrainian officials say the Russians have in fact been carrying out what they describe as the forcible deportation of thousands to Russia.

“We need a complete evacuation from Mariupol," Boichenko said. "Our most important mission today is to save every life... And there are hopes that we will succeed. For example, there are 26 buses that have to go to Mariupol to evacuate, but unfortunately, they haven't received permission to move. And this game is played every day. A cynical game like, 'Yes, we are ready. You can drive there,' but in fact it does not work. Our heroic drivers under the fire are trying to reach the places where Mariupol residents can be picked up, and they are waiting with the hope that they will have such an opportunity. But the Russian Federation has been playing with us since day one."

Statistics released by Ukrainian officials on Sunday paint a grim picture of the result of weeks of shelling and urban combat in Mariupol. 

According to those figures, 90% of residential buildings in the city were damaged, of which 60% were hit directly and 40% were destroyed.

Destruction on the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 23.
Destruction on the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 23. (Maximilian Clarke/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Seven of the city's hospitals — 90% of the city's hospital capacity — were damaged, of which three were destroyed. Also damaged were three maternity hospitals (with one destroyed), seven institutes of higher education (with three destroyed), and 57 schools and 70 kindergartens, with 23 and 28 destroyed, respectively. 

A number of factories were damaged and the city's port sustained damage. 

According to those official statistics, up to 140,000 people left the city before it was surrounded, and around 150,000 managed to leave during the blockade. During the height of the siege, around 170,000 people remained in the city, and Ukrainian officials claim 30,000 people from Mariupol were deported to Russia. 

8:46 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta suspends publication after second warning

Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta's editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov gives an interview in Moscow on March 24, 2021.
Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta's editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov gives an interview in Moscow on March 24, 2021. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

The independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta says it is suspending publication until the end of the war in Ukraine. 

It comes after Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor issued a second warning Monday to the newspaper following its interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Sunday.

“We received another warning from Roskomnadzor. After that, we are suspending the publication of the newspaper on the website, in digital and in print, until the end of the ‘special operation on the territory of Ukraine'," the Novaya Gazeta editorial board said in a statement. 

Remember: Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov, who won last year's Nobel Peace Prize for "efforts to safeguard freedom of expression," announced last week he was auctioning the award to support Ukrainian refugees.

Six staff members at the Novaya Gazeta, including Vladimir Putin’s outspoken critic Anna Politkovskaya, have been killed since Muratov co-founded the outlet in 1993.

8:34 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Using the Russian forces' "Z" symbol could lead to prosecution in two German states

From Inke Kappeler in Berlin

Russian soldiers are seen on a tank in Volnovakha district in the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk, Ukraine, on March 26.
Russian soldiers are seen on a tank in Volnovakha district in the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk, Ukraine, on March 26. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The usage of the Russian forces' symbol "Z" can lead to prosecution in two German states, officials have said.

"Whosoever is publicly expressing their consent to the war of aggression of Russian President Putin must expect criminal prosecution," Boris Pistorius, the interior minister of the state of Lower Saxony, said in a news release.

Last Friday, police in the state started to check whether the presentation of the "Z" was displayed in relation to the war in Ukraine. 

The symbol "represents the acts of the Russian army against international law," Pistorius said.

The state of Bavaria also warned sympathizers publicly using the Russian forces' symbol "Z" would be in danger of being prosecuted, the Bavarian Minister of Justice Georg Eisenreich said in a news release.

Some background: Days before Russian forces launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine, videos and photos began circulating on social media showing tanks, communications trucks and rocket launchers emblazoned with the letter "Z" rolling toward the border. When the invasion began, what started as a mysterious military symbol has become a sign of popular support for the war in Russia, and what analysts describe as the unfurling of a chilling new nationalist movement.

Russians have daubed the "Z" on their cars, sported black hoodies emblazoned with the symbol, and fashioned makeshift "Z" brooches on lapels — a sign that there is some popular support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his efforts to expand Moscow's sphere of influence by seizing parts of Ukraine.

Read more about the symbol here.

8:07 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Russia "not afraid" of censored Zelensky interview

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Ukrainian President Zelensky gives an interview to independent Russian media on March 27.
Ukrainian President Zelensky gives an interview to independent Russian media on March 27. (President of Ukraine)

Russia is "not afraid" of an interview Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave to independent Russian media, the Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN Monday.

Russia's media watchdog Roskomnadzor warned Russian news outlets on Sunday against broadcasting or distributing the interview between Zelensky and a group of independent Russian journalists.

"[We’re] not afraid," Peskov said when asked by CNN what Russia or Roskomnadzor were afraid of.

"We have laws in place, and it is very important not to publish information that would amount to a violation of these laws," Peskov added.

Media gag: Russia recently signed a censorship law making it a crime for what Russia considers to be dissemination of "fake" information, punishable by up to 15 years in jail. The Russian government continues to present its invasion of Ukraine as a special military operation.

8:18 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Ukraine invasion is "return to imperialism" says German chancellor

From CNN's Inke Kappeler in Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz takes part in the final press conference after the EU summit on March 25 in Brussels, Belgium.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz takes part in the final press conference after the EU summit on March 25 in Brussels, Belgium. (Michael Kappeler/picture alliance/Getty Images)

German chancellor Olaf Scholz has said the invasion of Ukraine is "the return to imperialism."

"We all have to prepare for the fact that we have a neighbor that is currently using violence. And we must prevent this to become code of practice," Scholz said during the "Anne Will" talk show on public broadcast TV Sunday evening.

Germany was discussing the purchase of an anti-missile defense system, said Scholz.

Germany cautions Russia: Scholz issued a series of warnings to Moscow.

"Don't dare to attack us," he warned.

Though "Zelensky is right to demand help from everybody in the world," Scholz said, "we will not engage with military forces – even if you call them peacekeeping troops – and we will not establish a no-fly zone." Such measures would be the start of a "huge confrontation between NATO and Russia," he added.

"NATO will not be part of this war," he said.

NATO was preparing for dramatic measures in case Russia were to use use biological and chemical weapons, said Scholz.

"The use of biological and chemical weapons may not happen," he said, but issued a direct warning to Russia: "Don't dare to do it."

3:09 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Russia-Ukraine talks will continue in Turkey, Russian foreign minister says

From CNN Staff

Russia-Ukraine talks are set to resume in-person in Istanbul, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday during a news conference.

"These negotiations are ongoing. They will be resumed today-tomorrow in Istanbul in-person after a series of video conferences," Lavrov said.

"And we are interested that these negotiations would bring a result and that this result would achieve our fundamental goals," he said.

"The fact that it was decided to continue negotiations in person is important," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday during a call with journalists.

Peskov said the talks between the two sides are likely to resume Tuesday.