March 9, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, George Ramsay, Jack Bantock, Ed Upright, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Amir Vera, Maureen Chowdhury and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 10, 2022
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7:07 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

US Commerce Secretary says "there’s no expiration date” on sanctions against Russia

From CNN's MJ Lee and Kaitlan Collins

Ginaa Raimondo, U.S. commerce secretary, during a meeting with business leaders and governors in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 9.
Ginaa Raimondo, U.S. commerce secretary, during a meeting with business leaders and governors in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 9. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that the export controls that have been leveled against Russia by the United States and its allies in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have “no expiration date.”

“We’re in it for the long haul and our allies are in it for the long haul,” Raimondo told CNN, adding that the Biden administration is prepared to stick with the measures designed to inflict economic pain on Russia for “as long as it takes.”

“There’s no expiration date,” Raimondo said. “We’re in it to win it and our allies are too.”

The comments, coming from a member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet, is yet another indication that the administration is bracing for a potentially prolonged and protracted conflict in Europe that has already roiled financial markets and that the White House has assessed would hurt American consumers’ wallets.

“This is going to be messy and probably extremely long term,” Raimondo predicted about the crisis.

Raimondo also warned that any country that does not abide by US restrictions on exporting to Russia would pay a heavy price — including China. She said her administration was prepared, for example, to cut China off from American or European equipment and software that are necessary to make semiconductors.

“We're going to prosecute any company, wherever they are, in China or elsewhere, who violates the rules,” she said. “So our expectation is that China won't violate the rules, and if they do, there will be consequences.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the administration had observed China “largely [abiding] by the sanctions that have been put in place.”

“I would note, though, that if any country tries to evade or work around our economic measures, they will experience the consequences of those actions,” Psaki said.  

6:32 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

How the US is trying to help Ukraine without triggering a wider war with Russia

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak, Natasha Bertrand, and Lauren Fox

The swift US rejection of a Polish plan to get MiG-29 fighter jets into Ukraine is the clearest example yet of the complications that the US and its NATO allies face trying to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s brutal assault while ensuring they don’t get dragged into a wider war.

The negotiations fell apart almost as quickly as they came together.

Poland’s announcement on Tuesday that it was ready to provide MiG fighter jets to Ukraine via a US Air Force base in Germany caught the US off-guard. By Wednesday morning, US and Polish officials were still discussing the prospect of providing fighter jets to Ukraine, an administration official told CNN.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the Pentagon bluntly announced it was opposed to the idea, which Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conveyed in a call to his Polish counterpart.

“Secretary Austin thanked the minister for Poland’s willingness to continue to look for ways to assist Ukraine, but he stressed that we do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian air force at this time, and therefore have no desire to see them in our custody either,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a briefing.

The episode underscores how the US and its allies may be reaching the limits of what they can do to help Ukraine – while staying out of the conflict – and points to possible cracks in an alliance that has remained strongly unified in the early part of the war as members enacted stiff sanctions and provided security aid.

It also demonstrates that the Biden administration is still working to get on the same page.

You can read the rest of this story here.

6:41 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

British soldiers may have unlawfully traveled to Ukraine, British army says 

From CNN’s Josh Campbell

The British army is imploring a “small number” of soldiers believed to have possibly traveled to Ukraine to immediately return to the United Kingdom, a British army spokesperson told CNN. 

“We are aware of a small number of individual soldiers who have disobeyed orders and gone absent without leave, and may have travelled to Ukraine in a personal capacity,” the British Army spokesperson said. “We are actively and strongly encouraging them to return to the UK.”

The UK’s Ministry of Defense also said in a statement, “all Service Personnel are prohibited from travelling to Ukraine until further notice. This applies whether the Service Person is on leave or not. Personnel travelling to Ukraine will face disciplinary and administrative consequences.”

As CNN has previously reported, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has called upon "citizens of the world" to join the fight against Russia.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry says it has created a special unit — the International Legion — which has already started to carry out combat missions to counter Russian aggression.

More than 20,000 volunteers and veterans from 52 countries have expressed their desire to join, according to Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, commander of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Defense Ministry that will run this legion said on Monday.

6:18 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

US State Department echoes White House in condemning Russia's "outright lies" on chemical weapons in Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The US State Department echoed the White House in condemning what they called the Kremlin’s “outright lies that the United States and Ukraine are conducting chemical and biological weapons activities in Ukraine.”

“As we have said all along, Russia is inventing false pretexts in an attempt to justify its own horrific actions in Ukraine,” spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement Wednesday.

“It is Russia that has active chemical and biological weapons programs and is in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention,” he said, adding, “Russia has a track record of accusing the West of the very crimes that Russia itself is perpetrating.”

“These tactics are an obvious ploy by Russia to try to justify further premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attacks on Ukraine. We fully expect Russia to continue to double down on these sorts of claims with further unfounded allegations,” Price said.

Like White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Price also noted that they have “also seen [Chinese] officials echo these conspiracy theories.”

5:58 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

UK PM Boris Johnson vows to impose "maximum economic cost" on Russia in call with Ukrainian president

From CNN’s Luke McGee and Arnaud Siad

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London on March 9.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London on March 9. (Matt Dunham/AP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to tighten sanctions and “impose the maximum economic cost on Russia” during a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday,

According to a Downing Street spokesperson, Johnson told Zelensky of "the work the UK is doing to provide the military equipment Ukraine needed to defend itself.”

Zelensky and Johnson also discussed the bombing of a maternity hospital in the city of Mariupol on Wednesday:

“Both leaders condemned the horrifying attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol and the failure by Russian forces to respect ceasefire agreements in humanitarian corridors. The Prime Minister noted that this was yet further evidence that Putin was acting with careless disregard for International Humanitarian Law,” the spokesperson said.

Johnson also praised Zelensky’s “moving address” to the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“The PM ended by reaffirming the UK’s unwavering support for the people of Ukraine and said that President Zelenskyy had earned the admiration and love of the British people,” the spokesperson added.

Johnson's comments also echo those made by British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who said Tuesday the United Kingdom will “drive forward” with “debilitating” the Russian economy alongside allies.

5:42 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

Ukrainian president says Mariupol maternity hospital strike is “proof” of a “genocide of Ukrainians”

From CNN's Mariya Knight and Hira Humayun

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol is “proof of a genocide of Ukrainians taking place” in a video message posted to Telegram late Wednesday night.

“The hospitals are ruined, the schools are ruined, the churches are ruined, ordinary buildings and all the dead people, dead children, he said, adding, “a strike on a maternity hospital is a final proof, proof of a genocide of Ukrainians taking place.”

Zelensky called on Europeans to condemn the “Russian war crime” saying, “Europeans! Ukrainians! Citizens of Mariupol! Today we have to be united in condemning this Russian war crime in which is reflected all the evil that Russian occupants brought to our land.”

The Ukrainian president addressed Europeans and called on them to ramp up sanctions on Russia. 

“Europeans you won't be able to say you haven't seen what was going on to the Ukrainians, what was going on in Mariupol, to the residents of Mariupol, you have seen it and you know what's going on so you have to strengthen sanctions against Russia in a manner that leaves it no more chance to continue this genocide,” he said.

5:40 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

US Deputy Secretary of State "horrified" by "credible reports" of Mariupol hospital strike

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Wednesday that she is “horrified, outraged, and heartbroken by credible reports that a Russian airstrike destroyed a maternity and children's hospital in Mariupol.”

How much more devastation will Putin's senseless war of choice bring to the people of Ukraine? He must stop these heinous acts now,” Sherman tweeted.

Although Sherman does not say the US has itself determined Russia was behind the strike, it is significant that she calls the reports “credible” and they are the strongest condemnation so far from a US official.

See the tweet:

5:34 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

USAID administrator says a worker at a partner organization was killed in Ukraine

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power tweeted Wednesday that a worker at one of USAID’s partner organizations “was killed by the Russian military just shy of her 32nd birthday.”

“I'm enormously sad to share the death of Valeriia ‘Lera’ Maksetska — proud Ukrainian, beloved @USAID implementing partner & brilliant, compassionate leader on building social cohesion & fighting disinformation,” Power wrote on Twitter.

“Born & raised in Donetsk, Lera answered Russia's 2014 invasion by working on the humanitarian response. She survived the shelling of Donetsk, moved to Kyiv, and started working with USAID — where she became beloved as ‘a brave woman with a kind heart,’” Power tweeted.

“Lera, a trained medic, could've left Kyiv when the invasion began, but stayed to help others. Only when her mom Irina ran out of medicine did she evacuate. As Lera, Irina & their driver Yaroslav waited in a car for a Russian convoy to pass, a tank fired on them—killing all three,” added Power.

Power said Maksetska’s death was devastating to USAID, her organization Chemonics, and “all who knew her.”

Read her tweets:

5:37 p.m. ET, March 9, 2022

White House warns that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine 

From CNN's Sam Fossum

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 9 in Washington, DC.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 9 in Washington, DC. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The White House warned Wednesday that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine or manufacture a "false flag" operation that uses them. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, slamming what she called false claims from Russia that the US is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine, tweeted: 

"Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them. It’s a clear pattern.”

Psaki also noted Russia’s “long and well-documented track record of using chemical weapons” as well as its pattern of “accusing the West of the very violations that Russia itself is perpetrating.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned earlier this year of the possibility of Russia carrying out a fake or real chemical weapons attack as a manufactured pretext for an invasion into Ukraine. But his comments came before Russia’s full invasion began.

Read the tweets:

CNN's Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.