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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1:30 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Ukrainians will vote on any proposed new security status, presidential adviser says

From CNN's Andrew Carey and Julia Presniakova in Lviv

Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaks to the media after a meeting with Russian negotiators in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 29.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaks to the media after a meeting with Russian negotiators in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 29. (Kemal Aslan/Reuters)

Ukrainians will be asked in a referendum to approve any agreement linking neutrality status with security guarantees, Mykhaylo Podoliak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said.

“It will be a referendum in which all citizens of Ukraine will express their position on this agreement, on how it should work,” he told Ukrainian television.

Only after any approval would it go for ratification by the parliaments of the guarantor countries and the parliament of Ukraine, he said. 

Podoliak said it was essential the government had the backing of the Ukrainian people for this agreement.

9:48 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

At least 9 dead in Russian strike on regional administrative building in Mykolaiv, regional officials say

From CNN staff and Olga Voitovych in Lviv, and Ben Wedeman and Kareem Khadder in Mykolaiv

Firefighters carry a dead body from the rubble of a government building hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 29.
Firefighters carry a dead body from the rubble of a government building hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 29. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

At least nine people were killed and 22 injured in a Russian strike on the office of the regional military governor of Ukraine's southwestern Mykolaiv region on Tuesday, according to the the Mykolaiv regional media office's Telegram channel.

First responders are seen at the site of the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration building in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 29.
First responders are seen at the site of the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration building in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 29. (Mykolaiv Regional State Administration/Reuters)

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.

"Eight civilians are under the rubble, we are searching for them. 50-100 people came out. We are also searching for three servicemen," he added.

People and rescuers gather near a destroyed Ukrainian government administration building following a an attack in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 29.
People and rescuers gather near a destroyed Ukrainian government administration building following a an attack in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 29. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

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

"The central section of the building from the ninth to the first floor was destroyed, without fire ensuing," the statement said. "As of 11:30, rescuers pulled one dead from the rubble, 18 of those rescued were hospitalised. Rescuers are working at the scene."

A firefighter clears the rubble of a government building hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 29,
A firefighter clears the rubble of a government building hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on March 29, (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

1:27 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Ukrainians outline demands for security guarantees, note possible progress on Crimea after talks with Russia

From CNN's Tim Lister and Niamh Kennedy

Ukrainian delegation member Mykhailo Podolyak makes a press statement after the talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine at Dolmabahce Presidential Office in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 29.
Ukrainian delegation member Mykhailo Podolyak makes a press statement after the talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine at Dolmabahce Presidential Office in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 29. (Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Senior members of the Ukrainian delegation who spoke with Russian officials today said there was progress after a day of talks in Turkey — and provided more detail on what security guarantees Ukraine would expect after a ceasefire.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, referred to talks about the status of Crimea, which annexed by Russia in 2014. 

"I want to emphasize as regards the territories of Crimea and Sevastopol, it was agreed in bilateral format to take a pause for 15 years and conduct bilateral talks on the status of these territories," he said.

Ukraine and the West have refused to recognize the Russian annexation of the peninsula, and the pause could be a formula for taking the issue off the table for now.

"Separately, we discussed that during 15 years while the bilateral talks take place, there will be no military hostilities," Podolyak added.

He also referred to one of the toughest elements in the talks: security guarantees for Ukraine if and when a ceasefire and peace settlement are agreed upon.  

"Undoubtedly, this treaty on security guarantees may only be signed after a ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Russian troops to their positions on the 23rd of February 2022," he said.

"We are simply bringing our proposals as negotiators to Russia about the system of security guarantees of Ukraine," he continued.

Podolyak said the Russian negotiators have "taken the treaty that outlines ways to end the war" and will work out their counter-proposals.

He added that both sides are still "discussing a humanitarian ceasefire," stressing there are "many places where humanitarian corridors are needed."

Another member of the Ukrainian team, David Arakhamia, also spoke about security guarantees. "We insist that this be an international treaty, signing all the guarantors of security, which will be ratified."

He said this would be comparable to NATO's Article 5, which enshrines the principle of collective defense. The arrangement, he said, would be similar to Article 5, "but even with a stricter activation mechanism."

"We say that consultations should take place within three days. They need to find out if this is war, aggression, a military operation. ... After that, the guarantor countries are obliged to help us. And military aid, and the armed forces, and weapons, and the closed sky — all that we need so much now, and we cannot get it. This is our proposal," he said.

Arakhamia named the guarantors as "the [permanent] countries of the UN Security Council" as well as Turkey, Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland and Israel.

"We have stipulated in this agreement that the guarantor countries must not only not deny Ukraine's accession to the EU, but also help with it," he said.

Arakhamia added: "Of course, we have unresolved issues with the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with Crimea and Sevastopol. And international security guarantees will not work temporarily in these territories."

A third member of the Ukrainian delegation, Oleksandr Chalyi, also stressed the three-day deadline for consultations in the event of "any aggression, military attack or military operation."

"And if these consultations do not lead to a diplomatic solution to the problem, the guarantor countries must provide us with military assistance, weapons, and even we include such a situation as closed airspace over Ukraine," Chalyi said.

Speaking to Ukrainian television, he said: "Doing everything possible to restore Ukraine's security is a key requirement. If we manage to consolidate these key provisions, which is the most fundamental requirement for us, Ukraine will in fact be in a position to fix its current status as a non-aligned and non-nuclear state in the form of permanent neutrality."

"Accordingly, these guarantees, which are in fact in line with NATO Article 5, as required by our country's Constitution. [We] will not deploy foreign military bases or military contingents on our territory, and we will not enter into military-political alliances. Military trainings in our country will be conducted with the consent of our guarantor countries," Chalyi said.

"However, it is fundamental for us that nothing in these provisions will deny our accession to the EU. The guarantor countries are also committed to facilitating these processes," he added.

1:27 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Both sides discuss possible meeting between Putin and Zelensky

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London and CNN staff

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, center, gives a thank you speech during the peace talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine at Dolmabahce Presidential Office in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 29.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, center, gives a thank you speech during the peace talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine at Dolmabahce Presidential Office in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 29. (Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Russian delegation to Russia-Ukraine talks in Istanbul announced two steps to de-escalate the conflict toward Ukraine following a first day of talks, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported. 

RIA, citing the Russian delegation, said the steps included a "drastic reduction in military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions," and also the possibility of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky simultaneously with the initialing of the peace treaty by the foreign ministers of both countries.

The head of the Russian delegation, presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky, called the negotiations “constructive," RIA reported.

The Russian General Staff will announce more details on steps to reduce hostilities in Ukraine after the Russian delegation to talks in Istanbul returns, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said Tuesday in remarks carried by Russian state news agency TASS. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said enough progress was made during talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations on Tuesday in Istanbul to allow Putin and Zelensky to meet. Speaking in Istanbul after talks wrapped between the two sides on Tuesday, Podolyak said there was now a "likelihood" that the two presidents may meet. 

"We have documents prepared now which allow the presidents to meet on a bilateral basis," he said. 

Talks between the two parties will "continue online 24/7," Podolyak said, adding that Ukraine needs "clear legal wording." 

"The Russian delegation is constructive and aware. This doesn't mean that negotiations are easy. They are very difficult. But the Russian side is paying attention to the Russian proposals, to the Ukrainian proposals," he added. 
9:07 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

US intel assess "major" strategy shift as Russia begins moving some forces away from Kyiv

From CNN's Jim Sciutto

After the Russian Ministry of Defense announced Tuesday that it has decided to “drastically reduce hostilities” in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions, the United States is already observing these movements underway — a major strategy shift, according to two senior US officials.

Russia is beginning to withdraw some forces, including Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) leaving the surrounding areas around the Ukrainian capital. The Russian forces now pulling back in some areas of the north to focus on gains in the south and east.

The US assesses Russia will cover their retreat with air and artillery bombardment of the capital, one of the officials said. US officials caution that Russia could always reverse again if the battle conditions allow.

The move follows peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Istanbul on Tuesday. 

In the US view, this is not a short-term adjustment to regroup, but a longer-term move as Russia comes to grips with failure to advance in the north. The official said one consequence the US is concerned about, is keeping the European allies unified on economic pressure and military support as Washington expects some of them to press Ukraine to accept a peace deal to end the fighting. 

Ukraine’s military intelligence head says Russian President Vladimir Putin could be looking to carve Ukraine in two – like North and South Korea. 

Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Agency, 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.

8:54 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Biden will convene a call today with European allies on Ukraine

From Nikki Carvajal

US President Joe Biden will convene a call with European allies to discuss the latest developments regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the White House, via pool reports.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are expected to be on the call.

8:52 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

US oil sinks below $100 after Russia says it will "drastically reduce" assault on Kyiv

From CNN’s Matt Egan

Oil pumpjacks are viewed in the Inglewood Oil Field on March 28, in Los Angeles, California.
Oil pumpjacks are viewed in the Inglewood Oil Field on March 28, in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Oil prices fell sharply on Tuesday after Russia indicated it will dial back its assault in parts of Ukraine.

The developments eased energy supply fears that sent oil prices skyrocketing earlier this month. 

US oil tumbled 6.4% to $99.25 a barrel in recent trading. Brent crude, the world benchmark, lost 5.4% to $106.43 a barrel. 

Following peace talks between Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the Russian Ministry of Defense has decided to “drastically reduce hostilities” in the Kyiv and Chernigov, according to state media RIA. 

The Russian official said the changes are part of an effort to “increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiation,” RIA reported. 

“I wouldn’t say peace is breaking out, but there’s a glimmer of hope apparently,” said Robert Yawger, vice president of energy futures at Mizuho Securities.

However, Yawger stressed that sanctions on Russia aren’t going away overnight, nor is the stigma that has caused many energy companies, banks and shipping companies from doing business with Russian energy firms. And there is no guarantee a ceasefire will be reached between Russia and Ukraine.

“You could easily take this all to mean Russia is just pulling back to regroup and give it another shot,” Yawger said. “I wouldn’t trust them.”

Oil prices plunged on Monday on concerns that lockdowns in Shanghai will sharply cut China’s demand for energy.

1:25 p.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Russia says it will "drastically reduce" military assault on Kyiv and Chernihiv

From Daria Markina

A Ukrainian serviceman stands near the wreck of a Russian tank on the front line in the Kyiv region, Ukraine, on March 28.
A Ukrainian serviceman stands near the wreck of a Russian tank on the front line in the Kyiv region, Ukraine, on March 28. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Moscow says it will “drastically reduce military activity” on two fronts — Kyiv and Chernihiv — according to the Russian Ministry of Defense Telegram channel.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin confirmed "to radically, at times, reduce military activity," according to state media RIA.

The move follows talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Istanbul on Tuesday.  

"Due to the fact that negotiations on the preparation of an agreement on the neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine, as well as on the provision of security guarantees to Ukraine, are moving into practice, taking into account the principles discussed during today's meeting, by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing on the signing of the above agreement, a decision was made to radically, at times, reduce military activity in the Kiev and Chernigov direction," Fomin told reporters.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine earlier claimed “certain units” of Russia’s military are withdrawing from battlefronts in the capital, Kyiv, and from the northern city of Chernihiv. 

“The Russian enemy did not meet the goal of its offensive operation,” it said in an official Facebook update Tuesday.

However, it warned of a “high risk” of Russian troops attacking military and civilian infrastructure. The Russian military, it claimed, is struggling to reinforce and rotate in new soldiers, due to the “refusal of personnel to participate in the so-called special operation,” and are “not able to staff even one battalion-tactical group.”

In the fifth week of the Russian invasion, the “heroic” Ukrainian resistance is “conducting a defence operation in the eastern, southeastern and northeastern directions, restrains the enemy in all directions, in some directions - displaces the enemy,” it said.

8:33 a.m. ET, March 29, 2022

Zelensky calls for tighter sanctions against Russia as Mariupol remains under siege

From CNN's Benjamin Brown in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen on a screen as he speaks in a video broadcast to members of the Danish Parliament at Christiansborg Castle in Copenhagen on March 29.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen on a screen as he speaks in a video broadcast to members of the Danish Parliament at Christiansborg Castle in Copenhagen on March 29. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for even tighter sanctions against Russia and warned that almost all of the besieged city of Mariupol has been destroyed in an address to the Danish Parliament on Tuesday.

"We ask you and the whole democratic community in the world: We need to step up sanctions against Russia. We must give up Russian oil. No trade with the Russian Federation. Close ports to Russian ships. And this must be a policy of solidarity in the European Union among all member states," he said. 

More than 100,000 people are still trapped in Mariupol and are forced to "have to melt snow to drink water," he added.

Russia, he warned, wants to "ensure nothing remains of Ukraine but ruins and refugees." 

Zelensky accused Russian forces of forcibly deporting people, as well as committing rape and looting.

He claimed the whereabouts of more than 2,000 Ukrainian children is unknown and said they have been abducted and taken into Russia.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the Ukrainian government estimated the number of Ukrainians forcibly deported to Russia since the invasion was nearly 40,000.

Some background: The port city of Mariupol has reported thousands of deaths as a result of Russia's constant bombardment. Before the invasion on February 24, the city was home to more than 400,000 people. Around 160,000 people remain, living without water, electricity and heat, said the mayor Vadym Boichenko.