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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11:35 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.

7:26 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Heineken to pull out of Russia

From CNN's Chris Liakos

Bottles of Amstel Pilsner beer move along the production line at the Heineken NV brewery in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on November 18, 2015
Bottles of Amstel Pilsner beer move along the production line at the Heineken NV brewery in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on November 18, 2015 (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

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.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened to watch the war in Ukraine continue to unfold and intensify," said Heineken.

"We aim for an orderly transfer of our business to a new owner in full compliance with international and local laws. To ensure the ongoing safety and wellbeing of our employees and to minimise the risk of nationalisation, we concluded that it is essential that we continue with the recently reduced operations during this transition period," it added.

The brewer said it will pay salaries to its 1,800 employees in Russia until the end of 2022 and "will do our utmost to safeguard their future employment."

Financial implications: Heineken expects to take a 400 million euros ($439 million) hit from the move.

"Upon completion of the transfer HEINEKEN will no longer have a presence in Russia," the company said.

7:18 a.m. ET, March 28, 2022

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

Ukraine has slowed some of Russia's advances, but multiple cities are being hit with missiles, a presidential adviser said. Russian forces continued missile strikes across Ukraine Sunday evening, including the cities of Lutsk, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr and Rivne, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, while shelling has been reported around the outskirts of Kyiv.

Meanwhile, Zelensky said he is ready to accept a neutral, non-nuclear status as part of a peace deal with Russia.

Here are the latest developments:

Russian forces attempting 'corridor' around Kyiv, officials say: 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.

Russian strikes continue: Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podoliak said the cities of Lutsk, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr and Rivne were among the locations hit by Russian missiles on Sunday. "More and more missiles every day. Mariupol under the 'carpet' bombing," he said. "Russia no longer has a language, humanism, civilization. Only missiles, bombs and attempts to wipe Ukraine off the face of the earth." A loud explosion followed by sirens were also heard in Kyiv early Monday, according to CNN teams on the ground.

Most Russian gains in Mariupol area are in the south: Most of Russia’s military gains near the port city of Mariupol are in the southern areas, according to the UK’s latest intelligence update. Further to its report, the UK's Ministry of Defence said there was "no significant change to Russian Forces dispositions in occupied Ukraine."

Kremlin concerned by Biden's remarks: The Kremlin is concerned by US President Joe Biden’s comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, adding that Biden's comments would continue to be monitored. Biden said on Saturday that Putin "cannot remain in power." Biden and White House officials later sought to walk back and clarify the President's comments, adding that he was not calling for regime change in Russia.

Peace talks will resume Tuesday: Russia-Ukraine negotiations are set to resume in-person in Istanbul, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday. Zelensky said in a video posted to social media that peace and the restoration of normal life are the "obvious" goals of Ukraine. "Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity are beyond doubt. Effective security guarantees for our state are mandatory," he said. Zelensky also told journalists Sunday that a neutral, non-nuclear status for Ukraine in the form of a "serious treaty" was acceptable as part of a deal with Russia, but any agreement would have to be put to a referendum.

Ukraine promises "immediate investigation" after video surfaces: An almost six-minute-long video shows what appear to be Ukrainian soldiers shooting men who are apparently Russian prisoners in the knees during an operation in the Kharkiv region. Asked about the video, a senior presidential advisor, Oleksiy Arestovych, said: "The government is taking this very seriously, and there will be an immediate investigation. We are a European army, and we do not mock our prisoners. If this turns out to be real, this is absolutely unacceptable behavior." CNN is not showing the video.

Putin eyeing "Korean scenario": Ukraine’s military intelligence head said Putin could be looking to carve Ukraine in two – like North and South Korea. Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov said Russia’s operations around Kyiv had failed and it was now impossible for the Russian army to overthrow the Ukrainian government. Putin’s war was now focused on the south and the east of the country, he said. "[Russian forces] will try to impose a dividing line between the unoccupied and occupied regions of our country. In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine," he said.

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

Russian forces attempting "corridor" around Kyiv, says Ukrainian deputy defense minister

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio in Kyiv and Nathan Hodge in Lviv

Satellite imagery shows burning buildings and craters near Irpin and Horenka, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 25.
Satellite imagery shows burning buildings and craters near Irpin and Horenka, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 25. (Maxar Technologies/Getty Images)

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," said 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. Kyiv residents are also very active in the defense of Kyiv. It is very difficult for the enemy. But we must speak honestly: the enemy is not letting up attempts to seize Kyiv after all. Because taking Kyiv essentially means taking Ukraine. So that is their goal."

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.

"Over the past 24 hours, there have been more than 40 incidents of shelling by Russian troops of housing estates and social infrastructure," the statement said.

A CNN team visited Novi Petrivtsi, a town north of Vyshhorod on Sunday, and saw first-hand the damage done by Russian artillery. Several houses had been completely destroyed. Residents and local authorities reported near-daily explosions in the area.