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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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. 

2:08 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

China's position has "given political support" to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, EU lawmaker says

From CNN's James Frater in Brussels 

A top European Union lawmaker on Tuesday said that “as a consequence of its principal position, China has given political support to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.” 

“The way in which China handles this conflict will have bearing on the future overall of the EU/China relationship,” said Reinhard Butikofer, head of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China. 

Speaking to journalists ahead of a high-level summit between the EU and China on Friday, Butikofer said, “The veil is threadbare and it fools no one." He added that he hoped that European leaders would “push hard to make China understand that Europe expects them to refrain from further supporting Russia.” 

“I would say that we have to convincingly tell the Chinese side that for us, this is not just a sideshow, this is not just an unnecessary conflict that will be forgotten tomorrow,” the German politician said. 

“This is a very fundamental conflict, because it breaches the principles on which the European security and stability order has been built over the decades.” 

When asked if he thought China was helping Russia evade sanctions, he said, “China's commercial banks have refrained from obviously breaching the sanctions against Russia. 

“I don't think it's possible to say yet how much China has been helping Russia to overcome the sanctions,” he concluded. 

At Friday’s summit, the EU will be represented by European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and will meet virtually with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang before speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping later in the day. 

The European Council said in a statement that “the main focus of the summit will be on the war in Ukraine, the engagement of the international community to support Ukraine,” as well as the “dramatic humanitarian crisis created by Russia's aggression, its destabilizing nature for the international order and its inherent global impact.” 

The two sides will also discuss human rights, climate change, biodiversity and trade, it said. 

2:27 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Biden on Russia's claim it will reduce Kyiv assault: "We'll see if they follow through"

From CNN's Allie Malloy

US President Joe Biden listens to a reporter's question in the East Room of the White House, on March 29, in Washington.
US President Joe Biden listens to a reporter's question in the East Room of the White House, on March 29, in Washington. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

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,” Biden continued in his answer after he was asked whether Russia appearing to scale back its military operations in Kyiv is possibly the war coming to the end or Russia trying to buy time.

Biden also noted that in his call Tuesday morning with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Great Britain that were was a “consensus” among the leaders to “let’s just see what they have to offer. We’ll find out what they do.”

“In the meantime, we’re gonna 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,” Biden added.

1:57 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Russia claims "advances" in negotiations with Ukraine, French government source says 

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Camille Knight in Paris 

Russian negotiators have claimed that negotiations with Ukraine have seen “advances,” an Élysée source said, following an hour-long call between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.  

The source did not explain what those advances were, but added that Macron is due to speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy in the “coming hours or days” to get the Ukrainian perspective on the negotiations.  

The source said that the humanitarian situation in Mariupol, the city in southeast Ukraine besieged by Russian forces, was “catastrophic,” adding that “freedom of movement of civilians does not exist." 

During the call with Putin, Macron demanded a new ceasefire that would permit civilians to leave Mariupol “in whichever direction they please,” in addition to humanitarian access for those still in the city, according to the source. Putin said that he would “reflect [on the demands] and come back” to the French side, the source said.  

Nearly 170,000 civilians remain in Mariupol, the source said, with “enormous problems of humanitarian access” to the city, adding that carrying out a humanitarian operation sought by France is not possible at this stage since there is no ceasefire. 

Following demands from the Kremlin for European countries to pay for Russian gas in rubles, Macron reconfirmed to Putin during the call that it was not possible, the source said.