Biden meets with family of US citizen Trevor Reed detained in Russia
From CNN's Sam Fossum
The family of Trevor Reed, a US citizen detained in Russia since 2019, met with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Wednesday.
The family had been demonstrating outside the White House to raise awareness about their son's ordeal.
"He listened intently to everything we had to say until we were through talking. We couldn't have asked for more," said Reed's father, Joey Reed.
The meeting lasted more than 30 minutes, according to the Reed family.
"We got to get it off our chest, all the things that we've been wanting to say to him, and it's done. We got to say what we wanted to say. He listened intently, and we're grateful for that," said Reed's mother, Paula Reed.
Some context: Reed, a former US Marine, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 for endangering the "life and health" of Russian police officers in an altercation. Reed and his family have denied the charges against him. During his time in detention, Reed has complained he has not received adequate medical care, saying in recent weeks he is coughing up blood.
Joey Reed had previously said he’s concerned the invasion of Ukraine will worsen his son’s fate.
The family's campaign: The Reeds said they plan to keep up the public pressure to secure the release of their son and other Americans detained abroad.
"We're gonna keep giving media interviews and spreading the word about our son so that more Americans know about him and all the Americans held in different countries," Joey Reed said. "And hopefully, the President will do what he needs to get our son and other Americans home as quickly as possible before — before they die, they're injured for life."
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
8:26 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Ukrainian official says Russia talks will resume Friday as calls grow for Putin-Zelensky meeting
From CNN's Mariya Knight
Ukraine's next round of negotiations with Russia will resume online on April 1, the head of the Ukrainian delegation said on Wednesday.
In a message posted to his Telegram channel, David Arakhamia also said that during negotiations in Turkey this week, it was announced the time has come for a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian delegation said it first needs a draft agreement with stronger approval on both sides, Arakhamia said.
But the Ukrainian negotiator called for the next meeting to be held between the presidents of the two countries. No date or official meeting between the two leaders has been scheduled yet.
“At the same time, we insist that such a meeting does not take place on the territory of Russia or Belarus,” Arakhamia said.
9:10 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Half of the Ukrainian city Irpin has been destroyed, mayor says
From CNN’s Karen Smith and Sahar Akbarzai
Half of the Ukrainian city of Irpin has been destroyed, according to Oleksandr Markushin, the city's mayor.
Markushin revealed the assessment during a press conference on Wednesday, saying “We can see 50% of the city and the critical infrastructure has been destroyed and the rubble has not been cleared yet."
Russian forces had attacked the city of Irpin in recent days, but the city is now under full Ukrainian control as Ukrainian forces fought back, according to the mayor in a separate CNN interview earlier Wednesday.
The mayor said that despite the fighting, many individuals still remain in the city.
“Of the restored water and energy supply, this has not yet happened and it is too dangerous because the city is constantly shelled,” Markushin also shared.
7:34 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
UK foreign minister travels to India as part of "diplomatic push" to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
From CNN's Lauren Kent and Arnaud Siad
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is visiting India on Thursday as part of a “diplomatic push” to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a news release from the British Foreign Office on Wednesday.
“Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is in India today (Thursday 31 March) as part of a wider diplomatic push following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine last month,” the press release read.
“In a meeting with India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the Foreign Secretary will say Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underlines the importance of democracies working closer together to deter aggressors, reduce vulnerability to coercion and strengthen global security”, it added.
The foreign minister “wants to counter Russia’s aggression and reduce global strategic dependence on the country ahead of key NATO and G7 meetings next week,” it also added.
“Deeper ties between Britain and India will boost security in the Indo-Pacific and globally, and create jobs and opportunities in both countries,” Truss said.
“This matters even more in the context of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and underlines the need for free democracies to work closer together in areas like defense, trade and cyber security,” she added.
“India is an economic and tech powerhouse, the world’s largest democracy and a great friend of Britain, and I want to build an even closer relationship between our two nations,” she also said.
Truss said the two countries would also work to deepen cyber security and defense co-operation and would announce a new joint cyber security program, while the UK would also join India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and “become a lead partner on maritime security issues, coordinating work with key partners in Southeast Asia.”
UK intelligence chief says Russian soldiers are low on morale and refusing to carry out orders
From CNN staff
The head of British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) said Putin has massively misjudged the situation in Ukraine and that some Russian soldiers have refused to carry out orders.
Speaking during a trip to Canberra on Thursday at the Australian National University, Sir Jeremy Fleming, Director of GCHQ, the UK's Intelligence, Cyber and Security Agency said, “it increasingly looks like Putin has massively misjudged the situation. It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people.”
Fleming said Putin over-estimated the abilities of the Russian military to secure a quick victory.
“We’ve seen Russian soldiers — short of weapons and morale — refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft,” he said without specifying when or where this took place.
“Even though we believe Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth, what’s going on and the extent of these misjudgments must be crystal clear to the regime,” he said.
Fleming also said the National Cyber Security Center has seen “sustained intent from Russia to disrupt Ukrainian government and military systems” and has seen indicators suggesting Russia’s cyber actors are looking for targets in countries that oppose the Kremlin’s actions.
He also said it is “clear” that Russia is using mercenaries and foreign fighters to support its forces — including the Wagner group.
“The group works as a shadow branch of the Russian military, providing implausible deniability for riskier operations,” Fleming said, adding that Wagner is now prepared to send large number of personnel into Ukraine to fight on the Russian side.
“They are looking at relocating forces from other conflicts and recruiting new fighters to bolster numbers,” he said, “These soldiers are likely to be used as cannon fodder to try to limit Russian military losses.”
On the role of China, Fleming said there are risks for Russia and China associated with the two countries aligning too closely on the Ukraine conflict.
“Russia understands that long term, China will become increasingly strong militarily and economically. Some of their interests conflict; Russia could be squeezed out of the equation,” he said.
7:00 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022
Zelensky says negotiations with Russia are “only words”
From CNN's Hira Humayun and Mariya Knight
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
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
“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.
Ukraine submits latest wish list to Congress including drones, medical supplies, and equipment repairs
From CNN's Jeremy Herb
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
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.