Russia's continued damage in Mariupol is "devastating," Pentagon says
From CNN's Ellie Kaufman and Michael Conte
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.
3:24 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Pentagon: Some Russian forces that had been moving against Kyiv are "repositioning" and heading to Belarus
From CNN's Michael Conte
The 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.
“Our assessment would be as we said yesterday that they’re going to refit these troops, resupply them, and them probably employ them elsewhere in Ukraine,” said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby at a briefing with reporters, “but I don’t believe that at this stage we’ve seen the refitting going on with any specificity.”
Kirby said that if Russia was serious about their claim of de-escalation, they should send those forces “to their home garrison,” and that Russian forces are still attacking Kyiv “by bombardment, artillery fire as well as airstrikes.”
He specified that the Defense Department is seeing the repositioning forces coming from the Russian forces that had been attacking the city from the north and northwest, and that there were also some Russian forces repositioning from the forces arrayed against Chernihiv and Sumy into Belarus.
3:21 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
About 1,000 Wagner group fighters are now in Ukraine's Donbas region, Pentagon spokesperson says
From CNN's Ellie Kaufman
About 1,000 people associated with the Wagner group, a paramilitary group sponsored by Russia, are now in the Donbas region of Ukraine, Pentagon spokesperson John 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,” Kirby 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.
3:58 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Pentagon: Putin hasn't been "fully informed" by his Ministry of Defense "at every turn" of Ukraine invasion
From CNN's Ellie Kaufman
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.
CNN reported earlier Wednesday that a US official said the US believes that Putin is being "misinformed" by his advisors about how badly the Russian military is performing in Ukraine and the effect of sanctions on Russia's economy.
“I’ve seen these press reports attributed to a US official, and we would concur with the basic finding, but we are not going to get any more specific than that,” Kirby said.
4:31 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Europe heavily relies on Russia for gas. Here's how it's reacting to concerns about possible gas shortage
From CNN staff
Some European countries are heavily dependent on Russia for their gas supply.
Here's a look at actions some European countries are taking so far:
Germany: It has issued an "early warning" of possible natural gas shortages after Russia said it wanted to be paid in rubles and threatened to cut off supplies if that didn't happen.
"A payment with rubles is not acceptable," German economy minister Robert Habeck had said on Monday.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday, he said that the warning stage was of a preventive nature and would see increased monitoring of gas supplies. He also called upon companies and consumers to use gas sparingly. German gas storage is currently filled to 25% capacity, according to Habeck.
"There are currently no supply shortages," he said. "Nevertheless, we must take further precautionary measures to be prepared for any escalation by Russia."
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin later on Wednesday, and the German leader stressed that Berlin is committed to a G7 agreement that energy supplies from Russia would be paid for only in euros or US dollars, according to a German readout of the call.
Putin informed Scholz that the law that payments for Russian energy supplies would have to be made in rubles does not apply for European partners, and payments would continue to be made in euros and transferred to Gazprom Bank, which is not affected by sanctions, and then converted into rubles, according to the readout.
“Chancellor Scholz did not agree to this procedure in the conversation, but asked for written information to better understand the procedure,” the readout said.
Netherlands: The Dutch government asked the public to use less gas as it hopes to reduce its dependency on Russian imports, according to a spokesperson for the economy ministry. However, the Dutch government would not be triggering a gas crisis plan, spokesperson Tim van Dijk told CNN. Instead, the government hopes to reduce Dutch gas usage through a campaign addressing its citizens.
The campaign had been prepared for weeks in light of the war in Ukraine and was not launched in connection with Germany's decision to issue an "early warning" of possible natural gas shortages, van Dijk added.
Austria: It issued an "early warning" of possible natural gas shortages in the country, which also follows Russia demand to be paid in rubles and its threat to cut off supplies if its demand was not met.
Austrian climate minister Leonore Gewessler announced the warning following a government crisis meeting. The early-stage warning sees Austria take "the next step in the preparation for an emergency," Gewessler wrote on Twitter.
"We are monitoring the situation on the gas market even more closely & taking precautions to continue to ensure the supply of our households," the minister added.
4:09 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
WHO: Attacks on health care are part of Russian strategy, with Ukrainian civilians used as "chess pieces"
From CNN's Virginia Langmaid
There have been 82 attacks on health care in Ukraine since the Russian invasion, according to World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"We are outraged that attacks on health care are continuing. Since the beginning of the Russian Federation's invasion, there have been 82 attacks on health care, resulting in at least 72 deaths and 43 injuries, including patients and health workers," he said at a media briefing on Wednesday. "Attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law and must stop immediately."
Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, said there's a "world of difference" between health access issues during conflict as compared to conflict actively targeting health care.
"It's a very big difference between that situation and a situation in which access is being actively denied to a population, where the actual cutting off of people is part of the tactics. It's part of the military strategy," he said.
"This is not people caught up in the fog of war. It's not people just caught up in the conflict. It is people being directly targeted, directly denied, and directly used as strategic implements, as chess pieces on a horrific, murderous board that they have no right, or no need to be on," he said.
2:59 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
UN human rights chief: Russia's indiscriminate attacks "may amount to war crimes"
From CNN's Richard Roth
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 Wednesday.
Bachelet said her investigators are looking into 24 cases where cluster munitions were used by Russia. Hospitals, water supplies and administrative buildings have been struck by missiles or shelling, she reported.
“The massive destruction of civilian objects and the high number of civilian casualties strongly indicate that the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution have not been sufficiently adhered to,” she said.
The Ukrainian people are enduring a “living nightmare,” Bachelet added.
“The hostilities must stop, without delay,” Bachelet said. “Today, I call on the Russian Federation to heed the clear and strong calls of the General Assembly and of this Council, and immediately act to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory.”
2:54 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
No breakthrough in Russia-Ukraine talks, French foreign minister tells CNN
From CNN’s Alex Hardie and Wesley Oliver in London
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 Vladimir 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.”
“We want a ceasefire as soon as possible but, in the meantime, we shall continue to provide Ukraine with defensive, legal weapons because this is necessary, because we want the war to stop, and we want the war to stop without going to war ourselves,” Le Drian told Amanpour.
Speaking about the conditions in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Le Drian said that President Putin "already has experience of doing so because it is very much the method that was used by the Russian forces in Aleppo [Syria].”
“If Russia wishes to make some gestures, they have to put an end to that — in particular, in Mariupol. They have to lift the siege of Mariupol. They have to allow access to Mariupol for humanitarian purposes so that the humanitarian assistance can reach the population and so that, as well, the Mariupol people are free to move. So that would allow us to give the minimum of credibility to the Russian statements,” Le Drian continued.
3:16 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Mayor of Irpin: The city stood up to the world's second largest military
From CNN's Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, Byron Blunt and Daria Markina in Kyiv
The mayor of Irpin, Oleksandr Markushin, told CNN that despite being a small city, it was able to stand up to the world’s second-largest military.
“Irpin is a small city, but it did not allow the second-largest army in the world go forward,” Markushin told CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen in an interview just outside Irpin on Wednesday.
“We had spirit, strong army and territorial defense and we had nowhere to retreat,” the Mayor added. “We are fighting for our land.”
Markushin said Russia never had full control of the city on the suburbs of Kyiv.
“The Russians attacked Irpin and wanted to own it, but they failed. They captured 30% of the city. A few days ago we knocked them out,” he said. “Now Irpin is Ukrainian by a 100%.”
Despite being under full Ukrainian control, the area remains dangerous as Russian forces continue to occupy nearby areas.
“It's still dangerous here, because Bucha, Vorzel and Hostomel are nearby. They are under Russian troops who still shooting,” the Irpin mayor explained. “They use Grad system, shells and mines.”
Markushin said Ukrainian forces had destroyed more than 100 vehicles in and around Irpin and that a humanitarian rescue effort was still ongoing, as many of Irpin’s residents had been unable to leave.
“We take out the wounded and dead bodies. Today and yesterday we have evacuated approximately 500 people. Today I myself evacuated about 50 children and 100 adults,” he said.
“There are many destroyed buildings, schools and kindergartens. There are completely destroyed residential multi-story buildings,” he said.