March 13, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Steve George, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:15 a.m. ET, March 14, 2022
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10:01 p.m. ET, March 13, 2022

It's 4 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Elderly residents cross a destroyed bridge while fleeing Irpin, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday, March 13.
Elderly residents cross a destroyed bridge while fleeing Irpin, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday, March 13. (Felipe Dana/AP)

Russia has asked China for military assistance in Ukraine, a senior US official said, and the Ukrainian military has thwarted an attempt by Russian military vehicles to cross the Irpin River.

It comes after a day that saw Russia expanding its offensive to western Ukraine, firing missiles near the city of Lviv and hitting a large military base close to the Polish border, reportedly killing dozens of people as the war draws closer to NATO's front line.

If you're just reading in, here are the latest headlines from the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Seeking China's help: Russia has asked China for military assistance in Ukraine, including drones, a senior US official said Sunday. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the development is a “concern" and the US has made it clear to Beijing there will "absolutely be consequences" for "large-scale" efforts to give the Kremlin a workaround to US sanctions. Sullivan will meet Chinese counterparts in Rome on Monday for talks.

When asked by CNN about the reporting of Russia's request for military aid, Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the US, said in a statement, "I've never heard of that."

Chernobyl staff: Staff at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant are so tired they have stopped carrying out the repair and maintenance of safety-related equipment, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said. The 211 technical personnel and guards have still not been able to rotate from the facility since Russian forces entered the site. Ukraine managed to resume the power supply at Chernobyl on Sunday.

Russian forces thwarted: Ukrainian troops stopped an attempt by Russian military vehicles to cross the Irpin River on a pontoon bridge near Hostomel, new satellite images show. Ukrainian forces in Irpin have so far repelled Russian advances toward the capital Kyiv. With the main bridge crossing the Irpin River having been destroyed, the Irpin River poses a significant obstacle for the Russian military.

Ukraine cut off: Britain's Ministry of Defense said Russian forces have blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, cutting the nation off from international maritime trade.

Zelensky warning to NATO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it is only a matter of time before Russia’s military assault on Ukraine expands to members of NATO unless the alliance installs a no-fly zone over his country. It comes as Russian forces fired missiles near the city of Lviv and hit a large military base close to the Polish border.

Ukraine and Russia talks to continue Monday: Ukrainian Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak tweeted Sunday talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials will take place Monday through video.

9:58 p.m. ET, March 13, 2022

Macron and Biden agree to strengthen sanctions against Russia, Elysee says

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden agreed to strengthen sanctions already taken against Russia in a call Sunday, the Elysee Palace said.

The two leaders reiterated their support for Ukraine and would join efforts on initiatives to end the fighting, according to a Elysee Palace statement.

Macron also offered his condolences for the death of American journalist Brent Renaud who died while covering the war in Ukraine. 

It is not clear which sanctions the two spoke about.

During a separate call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Macron expressed his support for Ukraine and detailed the content of the additional aid the European Union will provide to the Ukrainian government during the Versailles summit, the Elysee statement said. 

The calls came a day after the French leader spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of efforts to reach a ceasefire.

9:12 p.m. ET, March 13, 2022

Newly installed mayor in Russian-occupied Melitopol says "Russian TV channels" will begin broadcasting

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Josh Pennington

Galina Danilchenko
Galina Danilchenko (Melitopol Mayor's Office)

Galina Danilchenko, the newly installed mayor in Russian-occupied Melitopol, said in a televised video Sunday that "Russian TV channels" would begin broadcasting in the region.

Danilchenko claimed there was "a great deficit of trustworthy information being circulated," as reasoning for the broadcasting decision.  

Her televised address was posted on social media afterwards by pro-Russian Telegram channels and by the Ukrainian-controlled Zaporozhye regional administration.

Danilchenko was installed as mayor after elected mayor Ivan Fedorov was detained by armed men on Friday.

After he was detained, the prosecutor's office for the Russian-backed separatist region of Luhansk accused Fedorov of terrorism offenses. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded his immediate release, saying the "abduction" was a "crime against democracy."

8:58 p.m. ET, March 13, 2022

Macron also spoke about negotiations with Zelensky

From CNN’s Jim Acosta

France's President Emmanuel Macron holds a press conference on March 11.
France's President Emmanuel Macron holds a press conference on March 11. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden in separate calls Sunday, discussing the efforts to reach a ceasefire and ongoing negotiations, according to a French source familiar with the calls.

On the call with Zelensky, Macron, “reviewed the situation with him. He expressed his full support and detailed the additional aid that the European Union decided to provide at the Versailles Summit. They exchanged views on the continuation of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine," the source said, adding the two leaders will continue to coordinate in the coming days.

8:58 p.m. ET, March 13, 2022

Biden spoke with Macron about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, White House says 

From CNN’s Sam Fossum and Arlette Saenz

President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House March 8, in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House March 8, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron Sunday evening to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The two men "reviewed recent diplomatic engagements," according to a White House readout of the call. 

"President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Emmanuel Macron of France to discuss Russia’s war against Ukraine. They reviewed recent diplomatic engagements and underscored their commitment to hold Russia accountable for its actions and to support the government and people of Ukraine," the readout said.

A French source familiar with the call said Macron, “presented his condolences for the death of the journalist Brent Renaud. They agreed to strengthen the sanctions already taken against Russia, to support Ukraine and to take all initiatives to stop the fighting. They will remain in close contact on all this in the days to come."

8:41 p.m. ET, March 13, 2022

Czech Republic to bolster its military aid to Ukraine

From CNN's Emmet Lyons and Pierre Meilhan

The Czech Republic plans to deliver further military aid to Ukraine, worth at least $31.5 million dollars, government spokesman Václav Smolka told CNN Sunday.

Smolka declined to elaborate on the details of the aid package but said the time of delivery depends on when his government will be able to get "the required material." 

The Czech Republic already committed on Feb. 26 to send a “shipment of weapons to Ukraine” worth over $8.5 million to a “place of Ukrainians choice."

Prime Minister Petr Fiala said last month his country was sending "machine guns, submachine guns, sniper rifles and pistols and their corresponding ammunition valued at CZK 188 million," to support the Ukrainian government in its fight against Russia. 

8:05 p.m. ET, March 13, 2022

More than 328,000 refugees have crossed into Moldova from Ukraine, Moldovan foreign minister says

From CNN's Pierre Meilhan

Over 328,000 refugees have arrived in Moldova from Ukraine since Russia's invasion began on February 24, the country's Foreign Affairs Minister Nicu Popescu tweeted Sunday.

"About 101K refugees are in shelters or private homes across the country, including 48,254 minors," Popescu tweeted.

7:57 p.m. ET, March 13, 2022

Snake Island buildings damaged; Russian Naval landing ship seen anchored offshore in new satellite image

From CNN’s Paul P. Murphy

(Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)
(Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

Some of the buildings on Snake Island appear damaged from Russian military strikes, and a Russian Naval ship is seen anchored off the island in the first clear satellite image of the Ukrainian island in the middle of the Black Sea.

The image, taken on Sunday by Maxar Technologies, is the first clear look of the island since it was bombed at the beginning of the Russian invasion.

In the image, some of the red-roofed buildings in the island's center are shown to have been significantly damaged by the Russian shelling of the island. The ship seen offshore was identified by Maxar as a Ropucha-class landing ship. Although parts of it are snow-covered, there are impact craters dotting parts of the island.

Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, sits about 30 miles (48 kilometers) off the Ukrainian mainland's southern tip in the northwestern Black Sea. It's about 185 miles west of Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Russia annexed in 2014.

The defiant soldiers who were stationed on the island quickly became lauded as heroes at the start of the Russian invasion into Ukraine.

Initial reports from the Ukrainian government claimed they responded to a warning from a Russian naval ship to lay down their weapons or they would be bombed. Their reported reply was, “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.” The Ukrainian Navy had feared the soldiers on the island were dead, but now believe they are “alive and well” but are prisoners of war.

CNN's Sebastian Shukla and Lianne Kolirin contributed to this report.

7:37 p.m. ET, March 13, 2022

Ukrainian president says "it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall" on NATO territory

From CNN’s Emmet Lyons in London

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday it is only a matter of time before Russia’s military assault on Ukraine expands to members of NATO unless the alliance installs a no-fly zone over his country.

“Last year, I made a clear warning to NATO leaders that if there were no tough preventive sanctions against Russia, it would start a war,” Zelensky said in a video address Sunday posted to his Facebook page. 

He added, “We were right … now I repeat again -- if you do not close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory. NATO territory. On the homes of citizens of NATO countries.”

In addressing NATO countries, Zelensky cited the killing of American journalist Brent Renaud in Irpin, Ukraine, on Sunday.

“An American journalist was killed in the Kyiv region today. Brent Renaud. His colleague was wounded. It was a deliberate attack by the Russian military. They knew what they were doing. But not everyone in the West seems to know what they are doing,” he said.

Zelensky also said his team is continuing diplomatic negotiations with Russia to arrange a meeting between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Representatives of our countries’ delegations speak in video format every day. Our delegation has a clear task -- to do everything to ensure a meeting of the presidents, the meeting that I am sure people are waiting for,” he said.