March 15, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Eric Levenson, Meg Wagner, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Ben Church, Jeevan Ravindran, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya and Jason Kurtz, CNN

Updated 11:12 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022
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1:56 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Russia withdraws from Council of Europe

From CNN staff

Russia will withdraw from the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog based in Strasbourg, France, as of March 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Council of Europe, whose brief is to uphold human rights and the rule of law and is separate from the European Union, had suspended Russia's membership on Feb. 25, the day after it invaded Ukraine.

The Russian foreign ministry's statement noted this suspension in its reasoning and claimed that the NATO and EU members are turning the Council of Europe "into an instrument of anti-Russian policy."

On March 15, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, was given a notice of the withdrawal, the statement added.

1:45 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Russian journalist who protested Ukraine war on live TV says she was held for questioning for over 14 hours

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who held an anti-war protest on live state TV, told media she was questioned by authorities for over 14 hours and wasn’t allowed legal counsel.

Ovsyannikova was found guilty on Tuesday of an administrative offense by a Moscow court for a video statement that called for Russians to protest.

She had recorded it prior to appearing with an anti-war poster on Channel One.

“Those were indeed very difficult days of my life. I literally spent two days with no sleep. The questioning lasted over 14 hours, I wasn’t allowed to contact my relatives or friends, I wasn’t provided with any legal assistance. So I am in quite a difficult position,” Ovsyannikova told the media following a court hearing.

1:42 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Mariupol deputy mayor says Russian troops are destroying his city

Sergei Orlov, deputy mayor of Mariupol, said Russian forces are "destroying" the besieged Ukrainian city and that patients in a hospital were used as captives.

"There are a lot of fights on our streets, and the situation yesterday was terrible," he told CNN's Bianna Golodryga.

"They're destroying the city. For example, yesterday, we counted 22 aircraft which were bombing our city, and at least 100 bombs they used to bomb our city. The damage is awful," he said.

Orlov said a hospital in the city was overtaken by Russian troops, who used doctors and patients as captives, which he labeled a "war crime."

"The biggest hospital in the 17th district of our cities is captured by Russian troops and the Russian army used doctors and patients as hostages in this building. We do not have any access to them," he said.

A Ukrainian official has also accused Russian troops of holding people captive at the hospital on Tuesday. Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of Donetsk regional administration, said doctors and patients were being held against their will in the Mariupol regional intensive care hospital, also referred to as Hospital No. 2.  

While 2,000 cars were able to get out of Mariupol on Tuesday, according to the city council, Orlov said between 350,000-400,000 people are still in the city.

A large convoy of humanitarian aid that was supposed to arrive on Sunday had still not reached the city as of Tuesday morning, according to officials.

There are shortages of water and food in the city, Orlov said.

View drone video of the destruction in Mariupol here:

1:35 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Biden will meet with NATO leaders in Brussels next week and attend European Council summit, White House says

From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Betsy Klein and Kaitlan Collins

US President Joe Biden is set to travel to Europe next week for an extraordinary meeting and show of US support for Ukraine, the White House has confirmed. 

Biden will join NATO world leaders in person in Brussels, Belgium, next Thursday, March 24. 

 The US mission to NATO shared the news on Twitter earlier on Tuesday.

“The President will travel to Brussels, Belgium, later this month, where he will join the extraordinary NATO Summit on March 24 to discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia's unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine, as well as to refer reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at Tuesday’s press briefing, confirming the tweet from NATO. 

Psaki continued, “He will also join a scheduled European Council summit to discuss our shared concerns about Ukraine, including transatlantic efforts to impose economic costs on Russia, provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence and address other challenges related to the conflict.”

The visit will mark a quickly-arranged and critical meeting with key allies amid Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine as NATO attempts to curb Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing aggression. 

Earlier, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he had convened a leaders summit.

“I have convened an extraordinary Summit on 24 March at #NATO HQ. We will address #Russia’s invasion of #Ukraine, our strong support for Ukraine, and further strengthening NATO’s deterrence & defence. At this critical time, North America & Europe must continue to stand together,” Stoltenberg said on Twitter.

The trip follows a visit to Europe last week by US Vice President Kamala Harris. 

CNN's Lindsay Isaac contributed reporting to this post.

1:15 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

The mayor of Kyiv has written a letter to the Pope asking him to visit the Ukrainian capital

From CNN’s Delia Gallagher

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has written a letter to Pope Francis asking him to visit the city, according to Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni.

Klitschko wrote to Francis on March 8, saying that the Pope’s presence in Kyiv “is key for saving lives and paving the path to peace in our city, country and beyond.”

Klitschko also suggested a joint video conference with President Zelensky if the Pope were not able to personally make the visit.

The Vatican spokesperson acknowledged receipt of the letter but did not say whether the Pope would visit Kyiv or participate in a video conference.

The spokesperson said that Francis was “close to the suffering of the city and its people, to those who had to flee and to those working in the city’s administration.”

The Pope has also appealed for an end to the war and has offered the Vatican’s assistance in mediation.

1:06 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Ukrainian official accuses Russian forces of holding people captive at a hospital in Mariupol 

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in Lviv and Marina Marukhnych in Odessa 

A Ukrainian official has accused Russian troops of holding people captive at a Mariupol hospital on Tuesday.  

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Head of Donetsk regional administration, said doctors and patients were being held against their will in the Mariupol regional intensive care hospital, also referred to as Hospital No. 2.  

In a statement posted on his official Telegram channel, Kyrylenko said one of the hospital employees managed to pass on information about what was happening.  

"It is impossible to get out of the hospital. They shoot hard, we sit in the basement. Cars have not been able to drive to the hospital for two days. High-rise buildings around us are burning … the Russians have rushed 400 people from neighboring buildings to our hospital. We can't leave,” Kyrylenko said, quoting the employee of the hospital.  

Kyrylenko said the hospital was “practically destroyed” several days ago, but that its staff and patients stayed in the basement where the patients continued to be treated.

“I appeal to international human rights organizations to respond to these vicious violations of the norms and customs of war, to these egregious crimes against humanity. Russia and every citizen involved in crimes in Ukraine must be punished,” he said.  

1:42 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

It's 7 p.m. in Kyiv. Catch up with the latest developments in Ukraine.

A resident reacts after being rescued from her apartment by firefighters after the building was hit by a Russian attack early in the morning of March 15, in a neighborhood in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A resident reacts after being rescued from her apartment by firefighters after the building was hit by a Russian attack early in the morning of March 15, in a neighborhood in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

President Zelensky addressed the Canadian parliament on Tuesday, reiterating his global call to close air space over Ukraine and implement tougher sanctions against Russia and Russian officials.

Fresh sanctions imposed by and on Russians: Russia announced sanctions against US President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, US officials and other associated individuals. It also banned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand from entering the country.

Canada imposed new restrictions on 15 Russian officials who enabled and supported Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The US targeted 11 Russian military leaders – some of whom have been involved in suppressing Russian protesters and dissent in occupied areas of Ukraine — with sanctions on Tuesday, in addition to new sanctions from the Treasury Department.

The UK and the EU also announced sanctions against Russia. More than 600 Russian nationals are being targeted in the EU's sanctions. The UK's sanctions include banning the export of luxury goods to Russia and tariffs on goods worth more than $1 billion.

An update on the protest on Russian state media broadcast: A lawyer for the Russian television editor who held up an anti-war sign during a live broadcast on Monday confirmed to CNN that they have found Marina Ovsyannikova and she is in Moscow court. A photo showing Ovsyannikova and one of her lawyers, Anton Gashinsky, was published on Telegram this afternoon. Dmitry Zakhvatov and other lawyers had been trying to locate the Channel One editor since her protest on Monday.

Refugee crisis: More than three million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday.

Kyiv under attack: At least four buildings in residential areas of Kyiv were hit by strikes early Tuesday morning, killing four people

Despite 2,500 civilians leaving, thousands are still trapped in Mariupol: An estimated 2,000 private cars have been able to leave the besieged city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine on Tuesday, Mariupol's city council said in a statement. The departures took place despite the ongoing failure to formally establish safe corridors to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, which has been besieged since March 1. 

Further casualties: A strike in northwestern Ukraine on Monday killed at least 19 people, officials said Tuesday, after having initially reported no casualties. The strike hit a TV tower near the city of Rivne and officials said the area was still being cleared.

Zelensky to meet EU leaders: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Slovenia's Janez Janša and the Czech Republic's Petr Fiala are heading to Kyiv from Poland to meet Zelensky and confirm the EU's "unequivocal support" and "present a broad package of support."

12:55 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

US CENTCOM general: "Small groups" are "trying" to make their way to Ukraine from Syria to help Russians

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, told US lawmakers on Tuesday that “very small groups of people” are “trying” to make their way to Ukraine from Syria to fight alongside Russian forces as foreign fighters.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the US has seen evidence that Russia is trying to recruit foreign fighters from the Middle East to fight alongside their forces in Ukraine previously

12:29 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Russia bans Canada's prime minister, foreign minister and minister of defense from entering country

From CNN staff

Russia has banned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand from entering the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted on Tuesday.

These individuals, as of March 15, are on a "black list," the tweet explains.