March 30, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Maureen Chowdhury, Travis Caldwell, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Lianne Kolirin and Sana Noor Haq, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, March 31, 2022
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7:00 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Zelensky says negotiations with Russia are “only words”

From CNN's Hira Humayun and Mariya Knight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video message posted on Facebook Wednesday evening March 30.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video message posted on Facebook Wednesday evening March 30. (Ukrainian Government/Facebook)

Negotiations with Russia are ongoing but are “only words”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message posted to social media on Wednesday night.

“Yes we have negotiations process but they’re only words, without anything concrete,” Zelensky said. 

Zelensky said the “alleged pullback” of Russian troops from Kyiv and Chernihiv is not a retreat but a result of the work of the Ukrainian military.

“There are other words about alleged pullback of Russian troops from Kyiv and Chernihiv, and reduction of activities of the occupiers in these territories. This is not a retreat, this is the result of the work of our defenders, who pushed them back,” he said. 

He went on to say that Russian troops are concentrating in the Donbas region for new attacks, saying Ukrainians are “ready for this.”

“We will not give anything away and we will fight for every meter of our land.” 

He urged the public not to criticize the performance of the Ukrainian armed forces, saying, “If someone thinks that he or she can teach our military how to fight, and how to stand up to the enemy, the best way to do it is to go to the battlefield on your own, not from a couch at home or from a safe place you escaped to — but from real battle grounds and show your abilities to fight. If you’re not ready to do that, don’t even start to teach our defenders how to do their job.” 

The Ukrainian president said he had an hour-long call with US President Joe Biden and thanked him for the additional $500 million in aid for Ukraine. 

According to the White House, Biden and Zelensky “discussed how the United States is working around the clock to fulfill the main security assistance requests by Ukraine, the critical effects those weapons have had on the conflict, and continued efforts by the United States with allies and partners to identify additional capabilities to help the Ukrainian military defend its country,”

Zelensky said the support of the US is crucial for Ukraine, adding, “If we want to fight for freedom together - then we ask our partners to help and if we are really fighting for freedom and protection for democracy ourselves, we have all rights to demand help in this crucial difficult moment. We need tanks, warplanes, artillery… Freedom has to be armed no worse than tyranny.”

7:14 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

It's 1 a.m. on Thursday in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

A man walks past a the central post office building damaged by night shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 30.
A man walks past a the central post office building damaged by night shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 30. (AP Photo)

Despite claiming that it would “drastically reduce military activity” around Kyiv and Chernihiv on Tuesday, Russian shelling and sporadic small arms fire continued around Kyiv on Wednesday, according to CNN teams on the ground. 

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense also said that the Russian army continues to conduct a full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine on Wednesday, while Ukrainian forces continue to conduct a defense operation in the eastern, southeastern and northeastern directions.

The US Department of Defense said they’ve seen around 20% of Russia’s forces that had been moving against Kyiv “repositioning,” with some heading to Belarus, over the last 24 hours.

In the northern city of Chernihiv, Ukrainians also experienced continued attacks; the mayor of Chernihiv dismissed Moscow’s claim of a scale-back in operations, following what he describes as a "colossal attack”.

In Mariupol, a Red Cross warehouse was hit by at least two military strikes, new satellite images from Maxar Technologies confirm. There is no information yet regarding potential casualties or the extent of the damage. 

Here are more of the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine conflict:

  • Russian attacks with cluster munitions "may amount to war crimes," UN says: As of Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has received credible allegations that Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas at least 24 times. Russia’s indiscriminate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and “may amount to war crimes,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. She said her investigators are looking into the 24 cluster munitions attacks. To date, they have verified 77 incidents in which medical facilities were damaged to various degrees, including 50 hospitals, 7 psycho-neurological facilities and 20 other medical facilities.
  • Pentagon: Putin hasn't been "fully informed" by his Ministry of Defense "at every turn" of Ukraine invasion: Russian President Vladimir Putin has “not been fully informed by his Ministry of Defense at every turn” throughout the course of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday. Kirby did not offer any details that led to this assessment. Kirby said the US does not have “access to every bit of information that” Putin has been given or “every conversation that he’s had,” but he said he concurs with the “basic finding” of press reporting that Putin has not been fully informed by his Defense Ministry of the situation in Ukraine. 
  • No breakthrough in Russia-Ukraine talks, French foreign minister tells CNN: There has been no breakthrough in talks between Russia and Ukraine, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told CNN on Wednesday. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Le Drian said there was “nothing new” and “no breakthrough” in what has been discussed at negotiations in Istanbul.He added that “the issues are still the same” and that Russian President Putin “still wishes to impose his diktat on Ukraine.” The French foreign minister said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “wants some security guarantees to be given to his country and at the moment there is nothing like that in the discussion.” 
  • UN Refugee Agency unable to communicate with some of its employees in Mariupol: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is unable to communicate with some of its employees in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the organization’s High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said Wednesday. “Some managed to get out. Some are inside and we can’t communicate with them at this point. Those are my colleagues,” he said in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson from Lviv. Grandi called for "firm commitments" that there will be no fighting in order to operate evacuation corridors, adding that it’s “very complex and it needs those reassurances, otherwise we cannot do it.”  
  • Pentagon: First 6 of "around 30" new shipments of security assistance getting into Ukraine: The US Defense Department said the first six of “around 30 or so” total shipments of the latest round of US security assistance to Ukraine have been moved into the region. “Materiel is getting into the region every single day, including over the last 24 hours,” said Pentagon press secretary Kirby. He said the US is prioritizing “the kinds of materiel that we know the Ukrainians need the most,” including anti-armor and anti-air systems, and that the Switchblade drones promised to Ukraine will begin shipping in “relatively soon.”
  • About 1,000 Wagner group fighters are now in Ukraine's Donbas region, Pentagon spokesperson says: About 1,000 people associated with the Wagner group, a paramilitary group sponsored by Russia, are now in the Donbas region of Ukraine, Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday. The US has seen Russia become “much more active” in the Donbas region “in the last few days,” Kirby added. “We think that the Wagner group now has about 1,000 people dedicated to the Donbas. ... We have seen them prioritize airstrikes in the Donbas area,” he said. Wagner contractors have been fighting in the Donbas “over the last eight years, so this is an area where the Wagner group is experienced,” Kirby added. 
7:07 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Ukrainian members of parliament say Russia peace talks are not real

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand,

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, listens during a meeting between the Senate Ukraine Caucus and members of the Ukrainian Parliament and Polish Parliament at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, March 30.
Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, listens during a meeting between the Senate Ukraine Caucus and members of the Ukrainian Parliament and Polish Parliament at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, March 30. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

A delegation of Ukrainian lawmakers visiting Washington, DC, on Wednesday said they believe Russia is just using peace talks with Ukraine as a “smokescreen” for their forces to regroup and re-strategize in Ukraine.

“At this particular moment, these peace negotiations are far from real negotiations,” Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, who chairs Ukraine’s Parliamentary Committee on Integration of Ukraine to the European Union, told a small group of reporters at a roundtable hosted by the German Marshall Fund think tank.

“Definitely, I think that Putin is using this as a smokescreen, buying time to regroup … and sending false, lying messages to the whole world,” she said.

“We feel these are not real peace talks at this point,” said MP Anastasia Radina, who heads the parliament’s Committee on Anti-Corruption Policy. “We feel that what Russia is doing is trying to save face. They say they are withdrawing troops from Kiev region. That’s not true for one simple reason. They’re not withdrawing. … They were kicked (out).”

Radina said there is only “one way out of the war, and that is for Ukraine to win.”

Their remarks came one day after the Russian Ministry of Defense said that it had decided to “drastically reduce hostilities” around Kyiv and Chernihiv. US officials, including President Joe Biden, remain skeptical of the announcement.

“We’ll see,” Biden said on Tuesday when asked about Russia’s claims. “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.”

More weapons needed: Ukraine’s military is seeking foreign assistance obtaining reconnaissance and attack drones, tactical radars, electronic warfare anti-drone systems and close-air support aircraft, according to Ukraine’s most recent list of needs provided to Congress.

The list delivered to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, which was obtained by CNN, also includes help treating wounded troops and repairing equipment, including mobile military medical hospitals, the repairs of armored vehicles in neighboring countries and aircraft to help transport weapons.

Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat, said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday that latest the list provided to Congress this week reflected Ukrainian military and civilian leadership’s “urgent needs.” At the top of the priority list of 17 items was reconnaissance and attack drones, including “switchblade” drones, which are small so-called kamikaze or suicide drones that carry a warhead and detonate on impact.

The list also included combat aircraft — specifically referencing the Su-25, a Russian-made ground attack plane similar to the US-made A-10 Warthog. The Ukrainian military is also seeking artillery systems, surface-to-air missile systems, anti-tank Javelin missiles, anti-ship missiles and optical surveillance equipment.

The all-female Ukrainian delegation — men between the ages of 18-60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine amid the war — traveled to Washington this week primarily, they say, to ask American lawmakers and administration officials for more military support, which they said is still falling far short of Ukraine’s needs.

“Proper action for Ukraine right now, for support to Ukraine right now, would be weaponry,” Radina said. “Ukraine is constantly asking for weaponry and not only defensive weaponry, but also offensive weaponry. In our situation, this distinction between defensive and offensive is, frankly speaking, humiliating. In our situation, all weapons are defensive because we are defending our lands.”

Radina reiterated that Ukraine needs fighter jets, “because this is how we can actually stop bombings. … And as of now this is the issue on the table, and while it is on the table, people will continue suffering.”

“Our ‘humanitarian aid’ is weapons,” said MP Maria Ionova. “Because to minimize these victims and casualties, we have to defend our air. Freedom has to be armed. And that is why our main message here is please, help us to defend our future and the future of the democratic world.”

"Neutrality is not an option for Ukraine": Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has signaled that Ukraine might be willing to forgo NATO membership and commit to neutrality if the West provides Ukraine with solid security guarantees. But such a move would have to be put to a referendum — and Klympush-Tsintsadze indicated that anything short of NATO membership should be rejected.

“Neutrality is not an option for Ukraine,” she said.

Read more here.

6:49 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Ukraine submits latest wish list to Congress including drones, medical supplies, and equipment repairs

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

A Switchblade 300 10C system is seen during a training exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Sept. 24, 2021. 
A Switchblade 300 10C system is seen during a training exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Sept. 24, 2021.  (Cpl. Alexis Moradian/U.S. Marine Corps)

Ukraine’s military has submitted a list of needs to Congress as the conflict with Russia continues.

Here is some of what Ukraine is asking for:

  • reconnaissance and attack drones
  • tactical radars
  • electronic warfare anti-drone systems
  • close-air support aircraft

The list delivered to Capitol Hill on Tuesday — which was obtained by CNN — also includes a request for help in treating wounded troops and in repairing equipment, including mobile military medical hospitals. Additionally, Ukraine is asking for help with the repairs of armored vehicles in neighboring countries, as well as aircraft to help transport weapons.

Ukraine’s military has provided Congress and the Executive Branch with a variety of wish lists over the past several weeks as the Biden administration has ramped up its security assistance to Ukraine. Last week, Ukraine was seeking 500 American-made Stinger and Javelin rockets daily.

Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat, said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday that the latest list provided to Congress this week reflected Ukrainian military and civilian leadership’s “urgent needs.”

At the top of the priority list of 17 items was reconnaissance and attack drones, including “switchblade” drones, which are small so-called kamikaze or suicide drones that carry a warhead and detonate on impact.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Dr. Celeste Wallander told lawmakers during Wednesday’s hearing that the switchblade drones are “in the process of being delivered,” to Ukraine. The switchblade drones were included in President Joe Biden’s $800 million presidential drawdown package of military assistance for Ukraine announced March 16.

Wallander said that the Pentagon was familiar with the list and was looking at how it could help provide Ukraine with the items it is seeking.

The list also included combat aircraft, specifically referencing the Su-25, a Russian-made ground attack plane similar to the US-made A-10 Warthog.

The Ukrainian military is also seeking artillery systems, surface-to-air missile systems, anti-tank Javelin missiles, anti-ship missiles, and optical surveillance equipment.

5:32 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Russian general in DC embassy expelled from Washington corps of top military officers

From CNN's Alex Marquardt

The senior Russian military official at the embassy in Washington was kicked out of the association of top international military officers in the US capital in a recent vote because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At the request of the Ukrainian embassy’s defense attaché, a vote was held by the Defense Attachés’ Association and a majority voted to expel Russian Major General Evgeny Bobkin from the group, three European defense officials in Washington told CNN.  

As defense attaché, Bobkin is the most senior Russian military officer stationed in the United States. The role is to essentially serve as a military diplomat, acting as a go-between with the Pentagon and other military, diplomatic and political officials in Washington.

His expulsion from the DAA, whose dean is selected by the US Defense Intelligence Agency, will have no bearing on Bobkin’s official presence in Washington but is yet another example of the effort to isolate and punish Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.

“For us it was mission accomplished. We cannot let them play how they want,” a defense attaché from a NATO country said. “You cannot have in your midst the representative of a country that is not respecting any international agreements, that is [ignoring] human rights.”

The vote by secret ballot was held last week at the Canadian embassy. Notably absent from the special vote were officials from African and Middle East countries, in addition to the more predictable absences of China and most former Soviet countries (except for Kazakhstan and the Baltics). Nevertheless, the necessary quorum was reached and around 60 countries voted with most voting to expel Russia’s attaché, officials in attendance said.

A person who answered the phone in the Russian defense attaché’s office quickly hung up and the embassy press office did not respond to a request for comment.

The DAA serves as a professional and social organization for defense attachés and their spouses. Bobkin wrote in a blistering letter obtained by CNN that the effort mounted by his Ukrainian counterpart was “impregnated with hate towards Russia.” Attempting to pre-empt the vote, Bobkin said Russia would withdraw from the association “till the organization is cleared from Nazis.” 

“Everyone who vote[s] against Russia will give his voice for Nazi regime and for the country which tolerated revival of Nazism and genocide of its people,” Bobkin concluded in his response with, echoing President Vladimir Putin’s claim that the war he launched is intended to “denazify” Ukraine.

4:49 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

UN Refugee Agency unable to communicate with some of its employees in Mariupol, agency's chief says  

From CNN’s Adam Pourahmadi and Arnaud Siad

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi is seen during a recent interview on March 15.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi is seen during a recent interview on March 15. (Ahmad Sahel Arman/AFP/Getty Images)

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is unable to communicate with some of its employees in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the organization’s High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said Wednesday.  

“Some managed to get out. Some are inside and we can’t communicate with them at this point. Those are my colleagues,” he said in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson from Lviv.  

Grandi called for "firm commitments" that there will be no fighting in order to operate evacuation corridors, adding that it’s “very complex and it needs those reassurances, otherwise we cannot do it.”  

The high commissioner said that “we helped in Kharkiv just last week; but to do that, we need firm commitments that there will be no fighting and we need a bit of time.”  

“It is one employee. We haven’t been able to reach this team member for over a week,” communication officer for UNHCR in Ukraine Victoria Andrievska told CNN on Wednesday.

4:31 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

US stocks close lower as Russia breaks promises

From CNN's Nicole Goodkind 

US stocks extended their losses and closed lower Wednesday, as Russia continued its bombing of Ukraine just one day after it promised to scale back its invasion.

Germany warned Wednesday that it might ration its natural gas because of its disputes with Russia, and inventory of US crude fell. This sent crude prices up about 3% and energy stocks along with them. 

Retail stocks felt downward pressure on Wednesday following Q4 earnings reports that fell below expectations. Shares prices for Five Below, Chewy, and Restoration Hardware dropped significantly. 

Here's how the US market looked at closing:

  • The Dow ended the day down 0.2% or 65 points.
  • The S&P 500 fell by 0.6%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite lost 1.2%.

As stocks settle after the trading day, levels might still change slightly.

6:59 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Pentagon: First 6 of "around 30" new shipments of security assistance getting into Ukraine

From CNN's Michael Conte

The US Defense Department said the first six of “around 30 or so” total shipments of the latest round of US security assistance to Ukraine have been moved into the region.

“Materiel is getting into the region every single day, including over the last 24 hours,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Kirby said the US is prioritizing “the kinds of materiel that we know the Ukrainians need the most,” including anti-armor and anti-air systems, and that the Switchblade drones promised to Ukraine will begin shipping in “relatively soon.”

4:17 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Russia's continued damage in Mariupol is "devastating," Pentagon says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman and Michael Conte

A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows damaged apartment buildings and homes in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 29.
A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows damaged apartment buildings and homes in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 29. (Maxar Technologies/AP)

The damage caused by Russia’s continued bombardment on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol is “devastating,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

“The place is just being decimated from a structural perspective by the onslaught of Russian airstrikes,” Kirby said.

The “significant damage” has been inflicted on “civilian infrastructure, residential buildings, hospitals, recreation, park, everything,” Kirby added.

New satellite images of the besieged southern port city show entire entire blocks obliterated as Russian forces continue to bombard the area.