March 14, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Helen Regan, Steve George, Amy Woodyatt, Ben Church, Ed Upright, Maureen Chowdhury and Jason Kurtz, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022
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1:03 p.m. ET, March 14, 2022

Ukrainian armed forces say Russians using airpower to destroy military and civilian infrastructure

From CNN's Tim Lister in Kyiv

In their latest update on the conflict, the Ukrainian armed forces said Russian forces have continued "conducting systematic combat operations using bomber aviation in order to destroy the military and civilian infrastructure of Ukraine. " 

"The occupiers use high-powered ammunition and disordered strikes on civilians. Such actions are classified by the International Humanitarian Law as a war crime," the armed forces said in a statement. 

Amid heavy fighting in the south, the armed forces said Russian forces continued their efforts to surround the city of Mykolaiv, which is seen as a critical route to the major south-western city of Odessa. They said Russian forces had been held back. 

Around Kyiv, the Ukrainian armed forces said Russian forces were trying to get beyond the Irpin River to gain a foothold around the settlements of Bucha and Irpin — two suburbs of Kyiv that have seen intense combat since the invasion began. They said Russian forces were regrouping in order to resume offensive actions in the direction of Kyiv. 

The armed forces statement said that in eastern Ukraine, the Russians were focused on recovering from losses inflicted around Kharkiv and Izium. Both cities have seen widespread damage and civilian suffering. 

On Monday, according to Lyudmila Denisova, the Human Rights commissioner of the Ukrainian parliament, enemy forces fired on a private minibus in the Izium area. "The fate of the passengers is unknown," she said. 

"The enemy is constantly firing at [the city] with aircraft and artillery day and night. There are no possibilities for the delivery of humanitarian aid or evacuation. The number of civilian casualties cannot be determined," Denisova said.

The armed forces acknowledged that in Donetsk Russian forces were having "partial success in some areas due to their numerical advantage." 

The armed forces statement said that so far, 77 Russian aircraft, 90 helicopters and nearly 400 Russian tanks had been destroyed. CNN cannot verify the Ukrainian claim of Russian losses. 

1:08 p.m. ET, March 14, 2022

US House Democrat urges Biden administration to make exception for Ukrainians seeking tourist visas

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Rep. Tom Suozzi during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol in December.
Rep. Tom Suozzi during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol in December.  (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)

Rep. Tom Suozzi, a New York Democrat, on Monday urged the Biden administration to make an exception for Ukrainians who are trying to come to the US on a tourist visa to connect with family. 

To obtain a tourist visa, Ukrainians must apply, get an appointment at a US consulate, and prove that they’re coming to the US for a short period of time — a requirement set in law.

That’s kept some Ukrainians from being able to travel to the US given the uncertain circumstances in their country, including the relatives of a family who joined Suozzi Monday.

“This is a terrible quirk in the law that many people, thousands of people, probably tens of thousands of people are caught up in right now,” Suozzi said Monday during a news conference. 

Suozzi said his office is working with two families who have run into issues obtaining tourist visas, including a family who joined him on Monday.  

“To go through the motions of having my sister being there on her own, bouncing from country to country in Europe without having a house to stay, without having the support of her family, without having a real stable roof, it’s really devastating,” said Jenya Semekova, who’s sister and brother-in-law fled Ukraine and are in Italy. 

Semekova called her sister who’s been denied a tourist visa during the news conference.

“Now we’re in Italy. But we think we go next country because it’s hard to rent apartment in Italy and it’s too expensive, so we need to move to other country,” Semekova’s sister, Kseniia Isaienko, said. 

Suozzi sent a letter directed to US President Joe Biden on Friday raising the issue of tourist visas. He’s since been in touch with the administration. 

“These are family members trying to help other family members, but because the law is such that you have to show you have a place to go home to, they can’t demonstrate that because they don’t know what’s going to happen to their home,” Suozzi said.

12:47 p.m. ET, March 14, 2022

US defense official: Ukrainian forces have "effectively struck" Russian logistics and sustainment capabilities

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Ukrainian forces have “effectively struck Russian logistics and sustainment capabilities,” in the ongoing war in Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday. 

The US has seen examples of Ukrainians targeting Russian sustainment and logistics capabilities in their strikes on the large Russian military convoy that is outside of Kyiv, the official said.  

“The Ukrainians as I’ve said all along, they’ve been quite creative here, they’re not simply going after combat capability, tanks and armored vehicles, and shooting down aircraft, although they’re doing all that, they’re also deliberately trying to impede and prevent Russia’s ability to sustain themselves, that is true,” the official said.

12:47 p.m. ET, March 14, 2022

Russian advances "remain stalled" in Ukraine, senior US defense official says

From CNN's Michael Conte, Ellie Kaufman and Jeremy Herb 

“Almost all” of the Russian advances in Ukraine “remain stalled,” a senior US defense official said Monday during a background briefing with reporters.

Russian forces moving on Kyiv, including the infamous convoy to the north, have not appreciably progressed over the weekend, said the official, though the US does see Russia trying to “flow in forces behind the advance elements” moving to the north of Kyiv.

The official said the assaults on the cities of Chernihiv and Kharkiv also remain stalled, but that Russia has split off a force of 50 to 60 vehicles to move towards the town of Izium, presumably to block off the flow of Ukrainian forces from the western part of the country.

Ukraine continues to defend Mariupol, though the city remains isolated, according to the official.

Russian forces have also not moved closer to the town of Mykolaiv, according to the official, from which they could have their forces move on Odessa or north towards Kyiv.

Additional aid to Ukraine: More security assistance shipments from the US went into Ukraine over the weekend, a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday. The security assistance that arrived over the weekend is from the $350 million drawdown package US President Joe Biden approved at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Department of Defense is also working “fast” on “filling out” the security assistance packaged Biden approved over the weekend. That package is for $200 million in security assistance, the official said.

“We are hard at work at mapping that out, what that would look like, what would be in the first go, and working on when it would get there,” the official said.

Russia’s missile strikes on a Ukrainian military training center near Lviv in western Ukraine will not affect US efforts to provide weapons shipments to the Ukrainian military, a senior US defense official said Monday. 

The official said that Russia attacked the Yavoriv training facility with cruise missiles launched by bombers from Russian airspace, which the Lviv regional administration said Sunday had killed 35 people. 

The official said that Yavoriv was not being used as a shipment site for US security assistance. It would be a “wrong conclusion” to say the strike was targeting US security shipments into Ukraine, which a Russian official had threatened in a statement over the weekend. 

There were no US military troops or contractors at Yavoriv when it was struck Sunday, the official said. Before Russia’s invasion, Florida National Guard troops who had been stationed at Yavoriv were redeployed out of Ukraine. 

12:35 p.m. ET, March 14, 2022

Ukrainian prime minister calls for Russia's expulsion from Council of Europe in speech to chamber

From CNN’s Sarah Dean 

(Council of Europe)
(Council of Europe)

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal pleaded “Ukraine is on fire” as he asked for Russia to be ousted from the Council of Europe on Monday, in a speech to the chamber. 

Shmyhal was standing in for President Volodymyr Zelensky who was scheduled to give the address earlier on Monday. 

"For the past 18 days the world finally opened its eyes," Shmyhal said, referring to Russian actions in Ukraine.

Following an applause for Shmyhal, Tiny Kox, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said the meeting will now examine whether “for the first time in modern history” a member state could be excluded.

Kox said the consequences of the Russian army’s invasion would be debated in the coming hours and Tuesday.

More background: The Russian Federation became the 39th member State of the Council of Europe on 28 February 1996, according to the Council of Europe website.

“On 25 February 2022, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to suspend the Russian Federation from its rights of representation in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly, in accordance with Article 8 of the Statute of the Council of Europe,” the website adds.

However, Russian senator Alexander Bashkin told state news agency RIA Novosti on Monday the Russian Electoral Commission has suspended its work in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and will not take part in meetings. The head of the Russian delegation to PACE, Pyotr Tolstoy, suggested Russia may withdraw from the organization, according to RIA.

4:28 p.m. ET, March 14, 2022

CNN spoke to some foreign volunteers who are helping defend Ukraine. Here's why they joined. 

More than 20,000 volunteers and veterans from 52 countries have expressed a desire to join and fight to defend Ukraine in their international legion, an official from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said last week. CNN's Jim Sciutto and his team met some of these volunteers in Ukraine.

Their resumes range from combat experience to no military training at all.

Brian, a 25-year-old Minnesota resident, served two years with the US Marines in Okinawa, Japan, and has volunteered to fight with and for Ukrainians.

"I'm a US Marine. If I have to die to help these people, I will," he told CNN.

Oskar, a volunteer from Sweden, has no formal military training.

"We're here to help people. Hopefully, it's going to be over before we reach the fronts, before we need to fire a bullet or save someone with medical resources. That's the best for everyone. But if that's what it comes to, we'll be there," he said.

All volunteers get some training. While many can contribute on the battlefield, others may never see combat.

David, a 33-year-old Canadian, said he can help fix tires to keep Ukrainian military vehicles on the road. 

"If it's black and round and made out of rubber, I can fix it. One of the most important things of the gears of war is keeping it moving," he told CNN.

However, arming thousands of people is not without its risks.

"They might be dangerous," said Roman, a man who vets the background of all foreign volunteers. "We try to check their biography, try to check their past as best we can."

And Ukraine does not just need on-field fighters. Volunteers with combat medical experience are urgently required too.

That's what brought Sky Barkley, a US Marine and missionary to Ukraine, along with six other Americans. Barkley said this war does not compare to an insurgency or even the fight against ISIS.

"I mean, we're talking about the sheer amount of missiles being launched across the country, the ability of the Russians to reach out across hundreds and hundreds of kilometers and kill from that kind of distance," he told CNN.

Part of Barkley's team is Missouri native Maddie Hayes, who served as a nurse in Iraq.

"I just have a heart for these people. I just really want to help them. I don't see my life more valuable than their life," she said.

Sciutto reports that the training the Ukrainian military is able to offer foreign volunteers is limited — volunteers will get three to 14 days of basic training, and it's not a short-term commitment. Those who volunteer to fight are asked to sign on for a year of commitment in Ukraine. 

Ukrainian officials have made clear this is "not a calling for adventurers or weekend warriors," but a "service against a massive and ruthless invading army," Sciutto reports.

Just last week, the State Department warned Americans who travel to Ukraine and fight with Ukrainian forces in the ongoing war will be treated by Russians as “mercenaries” or foreign fighters, Russians have said, which puts them at a greater risk of mistreatment.

US citizens could also face criminal prosecution, capture or death from Russia for fighting on behalf of Ukraine in the war, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing Friday, adding that the US will also not be able to evacuate American citizens from Ukraine at any point.

Watch Jim Sciutto's report:

12:52 p.m. ET, March 14, 2022

Biden administration weighing expediting some Ukrainian refugee cases, official says 

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

A Ukrainian passport is shown at a center for the registration of Ukrainian refugees, at the Palace 8 hall of Brussels Expo on March 14.
A Ukrainian passport is shown at a center for the registration of Ukrainian refugees, at the Palace 8 hall of Brussels Expo on March 14. (James Arthur Gekiere/Belga/Sipa USA/AP)

The Biden administration is considering expediting the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees with US ties, including family already living here, according to a US official, amid growing calls from advocates to do more for the millions of people fleeing war-torn Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden and US Vice President Kamala Harris have repeatedly committed to welcoming Ukrainian refugees to the US, but the reality for those trying to reconnect with family in the US is different given the limited ways Ukrainians can legally come to the country. 

Nearly 3 million people have already fled Ukraine into neighboring countries, according to the United Nations refugee agency. While most Ukrainian refugees are likely to stay in Europe, there are those who want to come to the US where they have family. There are over 1 million people of Ukrainian ancestry in the United States, according to 2019 census estimates.

The options for Ukrainian refugees looking to come to the US are limited. The US refugee resettlement process, for example, can take years to complete, prompting a push from advocates to expedite the process for people who already have relatives in the US and could more easily settle down where those family members are located.  

A State Department spokesperson said the US is working with European allies and partners, along with international organizations, to support people displaced by the war. 

“If there are Ukrainians who are not able to remain safely and for whom resettlement in the United States is a better option, we will work with UNHCR and the EU to consider them. That is not a quick process, and so we will be looking at other options and what more we can do,” the spokesperson said in a statement last Thursday, noting that the US expects Ukrainians will want to stay in neighboring countries or in the European Union. 

New York Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, meanwhile, is expected to call Monday for the administration to grant tourist visas to Ukrainians seeking to travel to the US. But that too comes with its challenges.  

To obtain a tourist visa, Ukrainians must apply, get an appointment at a US consulate, and prove that they’re coming to the US for a short period of time – a requirement set in law. 

Marina Shepelsky, an immigration attorney who works with Ukrainian clients, told CNN some people had success in getting a tourist visa, but the demand has been a challenge. 

“It's very difficult. It's always been difficult to get tourist visa period but now there's so many people applying, they really have to pick and choose,” Shepelsky said. 

 

11:47 a.m. ET, March 14, 2022

White House having early discussions about President Biden traveling to Europe, sources say

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

President Joe Biden during a speech at the White House on March 11.
President Joe Biden during a speech at the White House on March 11. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

White House officials are having early discussions about having US President Joe Biden travel to Europe soon amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to multiple sources familiar with the planning. 

The trip would come on the heels of visits of several top aides, including US Vice President Kamala Harris and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

No trip has been finalized or announced. 

 

11:33 a.m. ET, March 14, 2022

At least 636 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russian invasion began, UN says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

As of Sunday, at least 636 civilians have died in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, the UN Human Rights office (OHCHR) said Monday in a statement sent to CNN.

This is an increase of 40 deaths compared to the previous daily update.

Among the dead are six girls, 10 boys and 30 more children whose gender is not known, the OHCHR says.

According to the agency, at least 1,125 civilians have been injured so far. 

"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes," the agency said.

"OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, especially in Government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration," it added.