March 29, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Maureen Chowdhury, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Jason Kurtz, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Travis Caldwell, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Jack Guy and Hafsa Khalil, CNN

Updated 11:06 a.m. ET, March 30, 2022
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5:41 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Putin has created a "global food crisis" with war in Ukraine, US deputy secretary of state says

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Workers plow wheat in the western village of Husakiv, Ukraine on Saturday, March 26.
Workers plow wheat in the western village of Husakiv, Ukraine on Saturday, March 26. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman charged Tuesday that Russia’s war in Ukraine has created a critical food shortage in Ukraine, with ripple effects of a “global food crisis” felt worldwide. 

At a United Nations meeting Tuesday held on the impact of Russia’s war on global food security, Sherman said that Russia has bombed at least three civilian ships carrying goods out of the Black Sea. She said that the Russian Navy is blocking access to Ukraine’s ports, cutting off Ukraine’s ability to export grain and preventing about 94 ships with food from reaching the Mediterranean Sea. 

Sherman argued that Russia’s claims that sanctions from the US and its allies are driving up food costs around the globe ignores the fact that Russia has prevented Ukraine’s grain exports from reaching the rest of the world. 

“So long as Putin continues his war, so long as Russian forces continue to bombard Ukrainian cities and block aid convoys, so long as besieged civilians are unable to get to safety, this humanitarian crisis will only get worse,” Sherman said. “Vladimir Putin started this war. He created this global food crisis. And he is the one who can stop it.” 

The claims from the senior State Department official leveled at Tuesday’s UN meeting come as the US has formally accused Russian forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine, including the targeting of civilians. 

Sherman said the Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that as many as 13 million people worldwide “may be pushed into food insecurity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Noting that both Ukraine and Russia are major agricultural producers, Sherman said about 30% of the world’s wheat, 20% of corn and 75% of sunflower oil exports come from the Black Sea region.

The World Food Program has warned that 45% of the people in Ukraine are concerned about having enough to eat, Sherman said. She pointed specifically to the attacks on the port city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, saying that the population there has been left without food, water, heat and electricity, and people have “resorted to melting snow for drinking water.”

“One mother told reporters she could feed her three daughters only a spoonful of honey a day as they hid from Russian bombs. Now, city officials say people are beginning to die of starvation,” Sherman said. “Five weeks ago, Mariupol was at peace. It was, in fact, a bustling port city, a grain exporter that helped feed the world. Today, its residents are dying because of President Putin’s war of choice.”

 

4:38 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

White House on Russian troop withdrawal claims: "We are not going to take their word for it"

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said that the Biden administration’s determination that the movement of Russian forces within Ukraine does not constitute a withdrawal is “based on the fact that we need to see what the Russians actually do before we trust solely what they've said.”

“We saw from the outset, that they made an aggressive push toward Kyiv at the beginning of this conflict, and we have no reason to believe that they have adjusted ... that strategy,” Bedingfield told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Tuesday. Obviously, we continue to do everything we can to impose costs for this decision. We will continue to execute on our strategy, but as you heard the President say, we are not going to take their word for it. We're going to wait to see what their actions look like.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden told reporters he won't “read anything into” Russia’s claim it was withdrawing troops “until I see what their actions are.”

“We’ll see. I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We’ll see if they follow through [on] what they’re suggesting,” the President said.

More background: An official also told Collins "no one should be fooled by Russia’s announcements" and instead should brace for more Russian aggression.

Bedingfield also responded to comments from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson that they do not want to see anything less than a “complete withdrawal” of Russian forces from the Ukrainian territory and will judge Russia by its actions rather than words.

“We are going to allow the Ukrainians to execute on these negotiations. It's not our role to begin the negotiation again, our role is to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield to try to strengthen Ukraine at the negotiating table by implying the sanctions and costs to Russia,” Bedingfield told Collins. “But I'm not going to prejudge or predetermine an outcome for that conversation.”

4:46 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

More than 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since the start of the war, UN official says

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

Ukrainian evacuees line up as they wait to cross the border at Medyka, Poland on March 29.
Ukrainian evacuees line up as they wait to cross the border at Medyka, Poland on March 29.  (Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 10 million Ukrainians, including more than half the population of children in Ukraine, have fled their homes since the onset of the war last month, a UN Humanitarian Affairs representative said while addressing the UN Security Council Tuesday.

Of those, 6.5 million are internally displaced and 3.9 million have crossed the borders to neighboring countries, UN Humanitarian Affairs Deputy Emergency Coordinator Joyce Msuya said.

Msuya said humanitarian aid is scaling up every day and now more than 1,230 United Nations personnel are in the country working with more than 100 humanitarian organizations across Ukraine.

“Ukraine is a humanitarian paradox: Side by side with extreme violence we see extreme kindness, profound solidarity and the gentlest of care,” Msuya said describing the humanitarian situation on the ground.

She said the first UN convoy reached Sumy on March 18 delivering 130 tons of medical supplies, water, ready-to-eat meals and canned food for 35,000 people among other things. On Monday, a second UN convoy reached Kharkiv providing food and other essential relief support items that were distributed by the Ukraine Red Cross society.

“Countrywide, more than 180 metric tons of medical supplies have been delivered, and more than 470 metric tons are on the way,” Msuya said. “Where we can, we buy supplies from the local market, and work alongside local efforts.”

In order to deliver more humanitarian support “we need detailed, realistic agreements on humanitarian ceasefires and pauses to allow aid in, and people out,” Msuya said. She added that “the situation in Ukraine is a breeding ground for human traffickers and predators taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the instability fueled by the war."

“Humanitarian organizations are worried about the risk of trafficking, as well as sexual violence, exploitation and abuse in Ukraine and the region,” Msuya said. “Predators are luring single parents on the road with promises of transport and accommodation.”

The UN representative said that the organization is scaling up protection services for Ukrainians fleeing the country at the border but also inside the country, “providing information available on safe options and routes, access to helplines and safe shelter.”

 

7:42 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

It's now 10 p.m. in Kyiv. Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian service member walks on the front line near Kyiv, Ukraine on March 29.
A Ukrainian service member walks on the front line near Kyiv, Ukraine on March 29. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

US President Joe Biden, when asked to respond to Russia’s claim it will “reduce” its assault on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, told reporters Tuesday, “We'll see. I don't read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We'll see if they follow through what they're suggesting."

In the meantime, Biden said, the US is going to "continue to keep strong the sanctions. We're gonna continue to provide the Ukrainian military with their capacity to defend themselves and we're gonna continue to keep a close eye on what's going on."

The US President's comments came after delegations from Russia and Ukraine met for in-person talks earlier on Tuesday in Istanbul, Turkey.

Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky said the announcement of plans for a de-escalation by the Russian military around Kyiv and Chernihiv "is not a ceasefire."

Here's a look at other key development in the war in Ukraine:

On the ground fighting: Intense fighting continued around the suburbs of Kyiv on Tuesday afternoon, especially in the northwest and northeast of the city, despite an announcement by both Ukrainian and Russian officials that Moscow was pulling some units away from both the capital and Chernihiv.

At least 12 people were killed and 33 injured in a Russian strike on the office of the regional military governor of Ukraine's southwestern Mykolaiv region on Tuesday, Ukraine's State Emergency Services said.

This death toll is an increase to figures provided earlier Tuesday by the Mykolaiv regional media office telegram channel.

US and allies "affirmed" efforts to raising costs on Russia: Biden and his counterparts in France, Germany, Italy and the UK “affirmed their determination to continue raising costs on Russia for its brutal attacks in Ukraine, as well as to continue supplying Ukraine with security assistance to defend itself against this unjustified and unprovoked assault,” on a call this morning, according to a White House statement. 

US troops training Ukrainians on weapons supplied by the West: US troops in Poland have been providing Ukrainians with some instruction on how to use weapons and equipment that the West has been shipping into Ukraine, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, as part of the United States' efforts to help Ukrainian forces repel Russian attacks. 

Biden said on Monday that those American forces have been “helping train the Ukrainian troops” in Poland. The troops have been deployed there to help bolster NATO’s eastern flank during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Expulsion of Russian diplomats: Multiple countries announced Tuesday they are expelling Russian diplomats from their countries.

According to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands expelled 17 Russian intelligence officers attached to Russian diplomats in the country. It said in a tweet the decision was based on information from Dutch intelligence and security services naming the Russian officers as a threat to national security. 

Belgium said it is expelling 21 Russian diplomats who have been identified as involved in espionage and “influence activities,” Belgium's Foreign Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmes said.

Ukraine invited to a meeting with NATO foreign ministers: Ukraine and a number of non-NATO countries have been invited to attend part of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers next week, according to a statement from the military alliance headquartered in Brussels.

Here's a look at where things stand in Ukraine amid Russia's invasion:

3:34 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

White House says European leaders "did not" discuss Biden's Putin remarks

From CNN's DJ Judd

US President Joe Biden and the leaders of Germany, Italy, France, and the UK “did not” discuss Biden’s off-the-cuff comment in Poland this weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power,” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told reporters Tuesday.

“They did not — I spoke with the President about this earlier, they did not,” Bedingfield said about the leaders’ call on Tuesday. “They were incredibly aligned, however, and spoke to some of the key issues that we are focused on here including supply to supplying weapons to Ukraine, including increasing costs on Russia, continuing to increase sanctions, supporting stable energy markets, and of course, the state of diplomatic negotiations.”

Bedingfield dismissed concerns that Biden’s unscripted remarks may have overshadowed the rest of his trip.

“Absolutely not — he spoke from the heart, as he always does, as you know very well for having covered him for a long time, as many of you do,” Bedingfield told reporters. “And as the American people know, he speaks from the heart. He says what he feels and no, he absolutely does not regret that in any way.”

5:54 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Pentagon: Russian troop movement near Kyiv area likely "a repositioning, not a real withdrawal"

From CNN's Michael Conte and Ellie Kaufman

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby speaks with reporters at a briefing on Tuesday March 29.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby speaks with reporters at a briefing on Tuesday March 29. (CNN/Pool)

The Defense Department cautioned that while “small numbers” of Russian forces have moved away from Kyiv “in the last day or so,” Russia can still inflict “massive brutality” on the country, including on the capital city.

“We believe that this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal, and that we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine. It does not mean the threat to Kyiv is over,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby at a briefing.

“Nobody should be fooling ourselves by the Kremlin’s now recent claim that it will suddenly just reduce military attacks near Kyiv, or any reports that it’s going to withdraw all its forces," Kirby said.

Kirby said that the number of Russian forces moving away from the Ukrainian capital are “not anywhere near the majority of what they have arrayed against Kyiv,” and that Russia has continued airstrikes against the city “even today.” 

Kirby said that the repositioning Russian forces are moving “more northward,” but that it’s “too early to tell” where their eventual destination is.

“We assess that it is likely more a repositioning to be used elsewhere in Ukraine. Where exactly, we don’t know,” he said.

Watch a moment from the Pentagon press briefing:

2:50 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

US official warns "no one should be fooled" by Russian claims about military operations

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

After US President Joe Biden offered a cautious reaction to Russian claims that they are scaling back some military operations in Ukraine, a US official says "no one should be fooled by Russia’s announcements" and should brace for more Russian aggression instead. 

"We believe any movement of Russian forces from around Kyiv is a redeployment, not a withdrawal, and the world should be prepared for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine," the official told CNN. 

"It also does not mean the threat to Kyiv is over. Russia has failed in its objective of capturing Kyiv, and failed in its objective of subjugating all of Ukraine, but it can still inflict massive brutality on the country, including Kyiv," the official said.

Biden said he and European leaders he spoke with Tuesday morning agreed to wait and see what Russia had to offer, while watching their actions in the meantime. 

3:38 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Fighting continues around Kyiv suburbs

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Fred Pleitgen and Byron Blunt in Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen stand in trenches at a position north of the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 29.
Ukrainian servicemen stand in trenches at a position north of the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 29. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

Intense fighting continued around the suburbs of Kyiv on Tuesday afternoon, especially in the northwest and northeast of the city, despite an announcement by both Ukrainian and Russian officials that Moscow was pulling some units away from both the capital and Chernihiv.

A CNN team visiting a residential area close to the frontlines (5km away from Irpin) in the Eastern part of the capital, heard loud and frequent incoming and outgoing artillery thuds. Multiple Rocket Launch systems could also be heard sporadically.

In the city center, air raid sirens and artillery thuds could also be heard with the same intensity and frequency as in previous days.

At a nearby checkpoint, a member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense forces, Yuryi Matsarski, told CNN the fighting had not decreased in the past 24 hours.

"[There was shelling] all the time yesterday. There was a lot of shelling at night and also today in the morning and right now, in the evening,” he said. “As far as I understand, no targets hit here in Kyiv, so our anti-rocket system is doing its very best.“

Residents that CNN spoke with said they were suspicious of Russia’s announcement that it was withdrawing some of its forces from the region, adding that Moscow could not be trusted.

4:54 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

At least 12 dead in Russian strike on government building in Mykolaiv, Ukrainian State Emergency Services says

From CNN's Ben Wedeman and Kareem Khadder in Mykolaiv

Rescue workers look at the rubble of government building hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv on March 29.
Rescue workers look at the rubble of government building hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv on March 29. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 12 people were killed and 33 injured in a Russian strike on the office of the regional military governor of Ukraine's southwestern Mykolaiv region on Tuesday, Ukraine's State Emergency Services said.

This death toll is an increase to figures provided earlier Tuesday by the Mykolaiv regional media office telegram channel.

More on the strike: The Russian strike demolished half of the building, Gov. Vitalii Kim said.

"They [the Russians] hit the building of the regional administration, demolished half of the building, hit my office. Most people were miraculously saved," Kim said in a statement on Telegram.

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said the strike hit the nine-story building Tuesday morning at about 8.45 a.m. local time.