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
26 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
8:14 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Kremlin denies it is forcibly disappearing civilians despite CNN and UN reports

From CNN’s Eliza Mackintosh and Lindsay Isaac

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he is not aware of cases of missing Ukrainian journalists and activists, or of reports of arrested officials in Russian-held territories of Ukraine.

Peskov's comments come after CNN reported that local Ukrainian officials had been arrested, and journalists and civil society members had disappeared and are still missing

Commenting on CNN’s reporting, Peskov said the Kremlin is unaware of such cases but said they needed to be examined carefully individually.

"It is very important to consider each specific case, each name and surname," Peskov told CNN. "Nobody contacted us [about it] and we do not have such information," he added.

In addition to CNN reporting, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) said that dozens of Ukrainians, including local officials, activists and journalists, are being arbitrarily detained and subjected to forced disappearances.

At least 45 cases of civilian detentions have been recorded by the HRMMU since the war began on February 24, according to a HRMMU spokesperson.

On Monday the mission said it had so far documented 24 cases of conflict-related detentions of local officials in Russian-occupied regions, 13 of whom have subsequently been released. 

Its monitors have also recorded the disappearances of 21 journalists, civil society activists, protesters and civilians, who "vocally opposed the invasion in Kyiv, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions."

Some of those who have disappeared were taken during protests against the Russian invasion or for openly expressing their support for Ukraine.

A handful have subsequently been released, the spokesperson said, although exact numbers are still being verified by the mission. 

"Information regarding the number of released individuals is pending verification. HRMMU has received many complaints about missing civilian persons, which are also pending corroboration," said the spokesperson.

"There are grounds to believe that some of them may have also been detained, and possibly subjected to enforced disappearance," they added. 

Families are often denied any information about the fate of those being held. Many are often too terrified to speak out about the disappearance of their relatives, for fear that it could trigger a backlash against themselves or their loved ones.

7:58 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

UN nuclear watchdog chief is in Ukraine for urgent talks on safety of nuclear facilities

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Stephanie Halasz in London

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi attends the IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on March 7.
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi attends the IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on March 7. (Askin Kiyagan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the chief of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, is in Ukraine for urgent talks with the Ukrainian government about the safety of the country's nuclear facilities. 

In a statement Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the talks with senior government officials will center on the agency's plans to deliver "urgent technical assistance to ensure the safety and security of the country’s nuclear facilities and help avert the risk of an accident that could endanger people and the environment." 

Grossi posted a photo of himself on Twitter standing in front of an official UN vehicle on Tuesday, saying he had "just crossed the border into Ukraine to start the IAEA's mission to ensure the safety and security of the country's nuclear facilities." 

In the statement, Grossi said that "the military conflict is putting Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and other facilities with radioactive material in unprecedented danger."  

"Ukraine has requested our assistance for safety and security. We will now start delivering it. Ukraine has one of Europe’s largest nuclear power programmes. The IAEA’s presence, where needed to ensure safety and security, is of paramount importance. We are ready to provide the necessary support now," he continued. 

Grossi, who is set to visit one of the country's power plants during his trip, warned that "there have already been several close calls" when it comes to the country's nuclear facilities. 

"We can’t afford to lose any more time," he continued, adding that the IAEA's expertise is needed urgently to prevent a nuclear accident taking place. 

Russian forces have occupied Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia, since March 4, and the site of the infamous 1986 accident, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, since February 24. 

The watchdog has drawn up "concrete and detailed plans for safety and security assistance" to Ukraine's nuclear sites, which include 15 nuclear power reactors at four plants as well as the Chernobyl NPP, according to the statement. 

Eight of the country's 15 reactors continue to operate, "including two at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya NPP, three at Rivne, one at Khmelnytskyy, and two at South Ukraine," the IAEA said in its latest update posted Monday. The other reactors remain closed for regular maintenance, they added. 

8:00 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Explosion heard during CNN interview with mayor of Chernihiv

From CNN's Jack Guy

An explosion could be heard during a CNN interview with Vladyslav Atroshenko, the mayor of Chernihiv, on Tuesday.

Atroshenko described how his city, which is about 90 miles northeast of Kyiv, had been under constant attack since the Russian invasion began.

He spoke to CNN from in front of a bombed-out cinema, which he said was struck by a missile.

"We can say with confidence that the Russian army is waging this war not against the armed forces of Ukraine, but against civilians," Atroshenko said.

Chernihiv has been under sustained attack from air strikes and mortar shelling, he said, adding that the Russians are not using high-precision weapons.

Some 300-400 people are estimated to have been killed in the city, but the exact figure is unclear, said the mayor. CNN cannot immediately verify any death toll.

The vast majority of the dead are civilians, Atroshenko said.

About 100,000-110,000 of the city's 290,000 residents remain in Chernihiv, said the mayor, who said the city would continue to hold off the Russian armed forces.

"We shall not surrender," he said as an explosion could be heard in the background. The noise was from a Russian munition, Atroshenko said.

"Absolutely nowhere is safe in the city now," he said. "The enemy is striking everywhere."

Watch the interview:

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

Ukraine conflict will cause a "significant change in the international order," says UAE advisor

From CNN’s Adam Pourahmadi in Dubai

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash attends World Government Summit at the Dubai Expo 2020, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on March 29.
Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash attends World Government Summit at the Dubai Expo 2020, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on March 29. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

The conflict in Ukraine is going to cause a "significant change in the international order" and will have "prolonged" and "deep" repercussions, according to Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates diplomatic adviser to the president.

"But I think we do really need to find a political solution. And it starts with a ceasefire and a political solution ASAP. We need to do that because the danger of horizontal or vertical escalation is real," Gargash told CNN on Tuesday.

The UAE has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Gargash said that "the [Middle East] region … is witnessing the sort of upper structure changing, but it has to catch up and it has to catch up by emphasizing, in my opinion, non-political issues."

Gargash, who previously served as the Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, spoke at the landmark regional meeting in Israel's Negev desert, where top diplomats from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, Israel and the United States met to discuss security issues.

At the meeting on Monday, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke about the effect the new regional alliance will have on deterring Iran, but Gargash said the "Middle East is not really only about Iran … and Israel."

"Our whole intention is to find a way of functionally working with Iran … our whole intention is that there is an agenda of stability or prosperity in the region that includes Iran and others."

Abu Dhabi has worked to improve ties with its regional neighbors, including Turkey and Iran, and normalized relations with Israel in 2020.

"We need to turn the page and start a new page. And that new page is basically reaching out to friends of course, but adversaries also. And to make sure that you know, we rebuild these bridges, we were not going to agree with everything they want to do," Gargash added.

7:37 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Negotiators discussed security guarantees and potential ceasefire, Ukrainian presidential adviser says

Fom CNN's Olga Voitovych and Nathan Hodge in Kyiv

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Tuesday outlined some of the issues that were discussed in talks between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul on Tuesday — which have now ended — saying there were "intensive consultations" on several issues.

"The key one is the agreement on international security guarantees for Ukraine. Only with this agreement we can end the war as Ukraine needs," Podolyak said, referring to a longstanding position of the Ukrainian government that Ukraine would adopt neutral status only if provided binding security guarantees. 

The second set of issues, Podolyak added, "is the issue of a ceasefire, so that all humanitarian problems can be resolved."

Ukrainian officials have said there is a major humanitarian crisis in cities that have been under heavy Russian bombardment, including the besieged port of Mariupol.

Podolyak also alluded to videos and other evidence that have surfaced of the apparent mistreatment of prisoners and other potential violations of the laws of armed conflict.

"I also would like to emphasize that today we have another problem that is growing, the problem of escalation of war, escalation of hatred, escalation of violations of customs and rules of war, not only on the battlefield," Podolyak said.

"Sometimes calls on air from both sides to destroy one or another nation. All this leads to conflicts, to videos of violating the Geneva Convention regarding the prisoners of war," he added, saying that the Ukrainian military is committed to making sure that it does not happen again, and "that it has legal consequences for people who violate the rules of war." 

7:31 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Evacuations in Luhansk region are happening despite corridor failure, governor says

From CNN's Andrew Carey, Julia Presniakova and Olga Voitovych in Lviv

Local officials are working to evacuate people living in towns suffering heavy Russian shelling despite the failure of fighting parties to formally agree a humanitarian corridor, the regional governor of Luhansk in Ukraine’s far east said.

Thirty people had been moved out of Rubizhne on Tuesday morning, as well as people from other nearby towns, Gov. Serhii Haidai said. 

Photos posted on the governor’s Telegram channel showed people gathered round a small bus ready to board, with their belongings packed in bags. 

The governor said people were being taken to the town of Sloviansk where they could get a train to take them to the west of Ukraine. 

Earlier, Haidai reported that about 20 residential buildings had been damaged by recent Russian artillery fire. Each destroyed building could mean anything from 30 to 100 homeless families, he added. 

One person had been killed by shelling in Nyzhnie, while rescuers had managed to pull 20 people alive from the rubble of a building strike in Severodonetsk, the governor said.

7:24 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Humanitarian corridors reopen in southeast Ukraine after one day pause

From Andrew Carey and Olga Voitovych in Lviv 

Local resident Inga Serbina, 45, has her passport checked by a service member of pro-Russian troops before she leaves the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 27.
Local resident Inga Serbina, 45, has her passport checked by a service member of pro-Russian troops before she leaves the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 27. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Evacuation corridors linking Mariupol, Melitopol and Enerhodar with Zaporizhzhia were agreed Tuesday, according to Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Residents of the three cities should be able to reach Zaporizhzhia, which remains in Ukrainian hands and has become the key transit point for people looking to escape fighting in the southeast. 

But logistics around Mariupol remain complicated, with buses unable to make it into the besieged city to take out residents.

Instead, people must make their own way out as far as Berdyansk, where they can then pick up buses to complete the journey. 

Some 75,000 people have been evacuated from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, Vereshchuk said. 

The number of corridors announced each day continues to fluctuate. On Monday, none were announced after Ukraine said it had intelligence suggesting possible Russian "provocations" along the routes.

Other days have seen up to nine evacuation routes announced, serving towns and cities in the north of the country and the far east, as well as those in the southeast. 

7:00 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

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

From CNN's Jack Guy

Delegations from Russia and Ukraine are meeting for in-person talks today in Istanbul, as Ukraine continues to launch counterattacks against Russian forces.

Here's the latest:

  • Talks in Turkey: Russian and Ukrainian delegations are meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, for the latest round of talks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that now is the time to "expect solid outcomes" from the talks.
  • Ukraine counterattacks: Military officials say Ukraine has launched counteroffensives against Russian forces in the Kyiv region as well as in the south of the country. Russian forces have been struggling to hold their front line northwest of the city of Kherson, and Ukrainian officials say the military has also pushed Russian troops back around 31 miles (50 kilometers) in fighting near the city of Kryvyi Rih.
  • Evacuation routes reopen: On Tuesday the Ukrainian government said residents of Mariupol, Melitopol and Enerhodar are once again able to reach the city of Zaporizhzhia, which remains in Ukrainian hands and has become the key transit point for people looking to escape fighting in the southeast. On Monday, Ukraine said no corridors would function over fears of possible "provocations" by Russian forces.
1:24 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Abramovich attends Russia and Ukraine talks in unofficial capacity, Kremlin says

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich is attending the current talks in Istanbul between Russia and Ukraine, but is not an official member of the Russian delegation, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.

Abramovich is "facilitating" to "ensure certain contacts between the Russian and Ukrainian sides," he added.

"In order to hold contacts between the two parties, it is necessary to obtain approval from both parties. In the case of Abramovich, he has approval [of his participation] from both sides."

Some background: Abramovich, who was sanctioned earlier this month by the UK government along with other Russian oligarchs following Russia’s invasion, has been acting as an intermediary between Russia and Ukraine, shuttling between Moscow, Kyiv, Istanbul, Warsaw and beyond amid a whirlwind of talks aimed at ending the conflict, his spokesman confirmed last month.

On Monday, a source close to the Ukrainian negotiation team told CNN that Abramovich and two Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered minor skin peeling and sore eyes during Ukraine-Russia talks "a few weeks ago" in Turkey, adding the incident was not regarded as serious.