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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12:00 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Zelensky reiterates global call to close airspace and implement sanctions

From CNN staff

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his global call to close the airspace over Ukraine and for Canada and global allies to increase their efforts of implementing sanctions.

"I know you support Ukraine. We've been friends with you ... but also I would like you to understand and I would like you to feel this, what we feel every day. We want to live and we want to be victorious. We want to prevail for the sake of life," Zelensky said in an address via video to Canada's parliament.  

"Can you imagine when you called your friends, your friendly nation, and you ask, 'Please close the sky, close the airspace, please stop the bombing.' How many more missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen? And they ... express their deep concerns about the situation. When we talked with our partners, they said, 'Please, hold on, hold on a little longer,'" he said. 

Zelensky also said he has not heard a clear answer on becoming a NATO member.

"It's dire straits, but it also allowed us to see who our real friends are over the last 20 days and as well, eight previous years," he said.

"You've offered your help, your assistance, at our earliest request, you supply us with the military assistance, with humanitarian assistance, you imposed severe sanctions, serious sanctions. At the same time, we see that unfortunately, they did not bring the end to the war," he added.

Zelensky said "you all need to do more to stop Russia, to protect Ukraine and by doing that, to protect Europe from Russian threat."

11:44 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Fox News says its veteran war photojournalist has been killed reporting in Ukraine

From CNN’s Oliver Darcy 

Cameraman and editor Pierre Zakrzewski in an undated photo. Fox News said in an internal memo to employees on March 15 that cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski was killed in Ukraine. 
Cameraman and editor Pierre Zakrzewski in an undated photo. Fox News said in an internal memo to employees on March 15 that cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski was killed in Ukraine.  (Fox News)

Pierre Zakrzewski, a longtime Fox News photojournalist, was killed while reporting in Ukraine, the network said on Tuesday.

"It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we share the news this morning regarding our beloved cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski," Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott wrote to employees Tuesday morning. "Pierre was killed in Horenka, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine."

He had been reporting from Ukraine since February and was with correspondent Benjamin Hall "when their vehicle was struck by incoming fire," Scott said.

Zakrzewski was a veteran war photojournalist who had "covered nearly every internal story for Fox News from Iraq to Afghanistan to Syria," Scott said.

"His talents were vast and there wasn't a role that he didn't jump in to help with in the field — from photographer to engineer to editor to producer — and he did it all under immense pressure with tremendous skill," Scott said. "He was profoundly committed to telling the story and his bravery, professionalism and work ethic were renowned among journalists at every media outlet."

"He was wildly popular — everyone in the media industry who has covered a foreign story knew and respected Pierre," Scott added.

Scott said it was a "heartbreaking day for Fox News Media and for all journalists risking their lives to deliver the news."

Meanwhile, Hall remains in the hospital in Ukraine, she told colleagues.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Minister, said a Ukrainian journalist, Oleksandra Kuvshynova, was also killed in the incident.

Fox has not yet confirmed that Kuvshynova was working with the Fox team.

The news of Zakrzewski's death comes days after Brent Renaud, an award-winning American journalist, was killed in the Ukrainian town of Irpin.

Andriy Nebitov, the head of the Kyiv region police, said that Russian forces shot Renaud, adding that "the occupants cynically kill even journalists of international media, who've been trying to tell the truth about atrocities of Russian military in Ukraine."

Another journalist, Juan Arredondo, was also wounded in Ukraine on Sunday.

Press freedom groups have denounced the violence journalists are facing while covering the war. The Committee to Protect Journalists, after the death of Renaud, called on Russian forces to "stop all violence against journalists and other civilians at once."

11:32 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Canada PM: Zelensky is "defending the right of Ukrainians to choose their own future" and democratic values

Canadian lawmakers gave a long standing ovation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before he addressed them via video on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed Zelensky and applauded his courage as Russia invades Ukraine, saying, "Your courage and the courage of your people inspires us all."

"You're defending the right of Ukrainians to choose their own future, and in doing so, you're defending the values that form the pillars of all free democratic countries — freedom, human rights, justice, truth international order," Trudeau said.

Earlier today, Canada imposed new sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including restrictions on 15 Russian officials who enabled and supported President Vladimir Putin’s choice to invade the country, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly announced in a statement Tuesday.

1:07 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Ukrainian President Zelensky addresses Canada's parliament

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressing Canada's parliament via video.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressing Canada's parliament via video. (CTV Network)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is currently addressing Canada's parliament via video.

Zelensky described the current situation in Ukraine, saying via a translator, "Every night is a horrible night. Russians are shelling from all kinds of artillery, from tanks. They're hitting civilian infrastructure, they hit buildings. Can you imagine that there is a fire starting at the nuclear power plant? And that's exactly what happened in our country. Each city, they are marching through, they're taking down Ukrainian flags. Can you imagine someone taking down your Canadian flags in Montreal and other Canadian cities?"

Earlier today, Canada imposed new sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including restrictions on 15 Russian officials who enabled and supported President Vladimir Putin’s choice to invade the country, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly announced in a statement Tuesday.

11:37 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

US secretary of state announces sanctions on 11 Russian military leaders, some involved in quashing dissent

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

The Biden administration 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, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced. 

Blinken said that “the Russian government has intensified a crackdown against its own citizens’ freedom of expression, including for members of the press, as well as freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Today in Russia, those who provide factual reporting on the invasion or criticize Putin face criminal charges.”

This action comes as the National Guard of Russia “has cracked down on Russian citizens who have taken to the streets to protest their government’s brutal campaign in Ukraine,” Blinken said, adding that the list of Russian military officials hit includes Viktor Zolotov, the head of the National Guard.

“In addition, Zolotov’s troops are responsible for suppressing dissent in occupied areas of Ukraine. More broadly, the designation of these 11 senior Russian defense leaders continues our imposition of severe costs on Russia’s Ministry of Defense as it pursues its brutal military invasion of Ukraine, which has led to unnecessary casualties and suffering, including the deaths of children,” Blinken said.

“The world has been transfixed as Russia has perpetrated a premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine. Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine has resulted in widespread human suffering and casualties, including the deaths of innocent civilians, including children. Today, the Department of State is continuing to impose severe costs on Russian military leaders,” according to the State Department. 

The State Department also announced new visa restrictions on 38 current and former Russian government officials believed to be involved in suppressing dissent in Russia and abroad; new sanctions on two of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) officers; visa restrictions on six individuals involved in attacks on Chechen dissidents living in Europe; and visa restrictions on 25 individuals responsible for undermining democracy in Belarus.

11:59 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Doctors worry that a surge in Covid-19 and other infectious diseases could be next for Ukraine

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Global health officials have warned that there will be a rise of Covid-19 in Ukraine tied to Russia's invasion, but doctors also worry about a surge in other infectious diseases too: polio, cholera and measles. Doctors without borders also claimed that Ukraine is facing an insulin shortage.

Before the war, Ukraine had low vaccination rates against those diseases, Kate White, an emergency program manager for Doctors Without Borders, told CNN on Tuesday.

"In terms of what we call vaccine-preventable diseases, the status in Ukraine was that the population was not vaccinated to the extent which you would get herd immunity like you would in many other European countries or in the US," White told CNN.

"Given that that was your baseline, and then now we have a situation where that system or routine immunization is no longer functioning because the health system has been disrupted — and then on top of that, you have the overall public health situation, so many cities where lack of access to health care is compromised, some places where they no longer have the water supply that they used to, they don't have electricity, there's issues with sanitation — so, all of these risk factors pile up on top of each other, which means that there is an increased risk," White said, referring to diseases like polio, cholera and measles.

"There was a polio outbreak in Ukraine last year," White said. "Ukraine was the last country within Europe to have a cholera outbreak in 2011, and that was in Mariupol. And as you are probably aware, Mariupol right now has significant issues around water and sanitation and an inability to do your basic kind of daily activities around hygiene."

The city of Mariupol remains a major site of Russian attacks and damage.

"There's also a risk of measles," White said. "The baseline vaccination status was not particularly high."

White added that she has heard of some physicians and volunteers testing positive for Covid-19 while in Ukraine, but "testing capacity is minimal right now."

Last week, officials at the World Health Organization said that as the pandemic continues, Russia's invasion will impact the spread of coronavirus.

"Certainly, there’ll be a rise in Covid-19 within the population within Ukraine, without a doubt, because not testing, without access to treatment, with vaccinations stopped, and there's already low vaccination — I think about 34% or 35% vaccination rate before the conflict," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, said in a news briefing last week. "So, there are many people who still remain vulnerable to infection."

Additionally, the organization claimed that Ukraine is facing an insulin shortage.

In a statement, the World Health Organization lists insulin as one of the many medications it is supplying to Ukraine.

According to the International Diabetes Foundation, there are over 2.3 million people with diabetes in Ukraine, making up 7.1% of the population. 

11:11 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

NATO chief expresses concerns over possible Moscow "false flag" operation in Ukraine 

From Sharon Braithwaite in London

NATO is concerned that Russia might use chemical weapons in a "false flag" operation in Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

Moscow’s “absurd” claims about biological labs and chemical weapon is part of a “long list of lies,” which causes worry about the possibility of such an attack, the NATO chief warned.

“They claimed they did not plan to invade Ukraine but they did. They claimed that they were withdrawing their troops, but then sent in even more. They claim to be protecting civilians, but they are killing civilians,” he said while speaking at a press conference in Brussels, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal” invasion of Ukraine is “causing death and destruction every day.” 

“It has shocked the world and shaken the international order,” he added.

NATO defense ministers will hold a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

Here's why is this under discussion: US President Joe Biden warned on Friday that Russia will pay a "severe price" if the country uses chemical weapons in Ukraine. While the US has so far not presented any evidence that Russia plans to use chemical weapons in Ukraine, the White House — most notably, press secretary Jen Psaki — has warned that the weapons could be used in the conflict. In a tweet, she also noted Russia's "long and well-documented track record of using chemical weapons."

The US government previously found that the Russian government used chemical weapons in both the 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and in 2018 against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in England.

Read more here.

11:57 a.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Number of people fleeing Ukraine tops 3 million, according to UN migration agency

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in Lviv

Displaced Ukrainians wait in line at the Medyka border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 15.
Displaced Ukrainians wait in line at the Medyka border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 15. ((Angel Garcia/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

More than three million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday. 

The organization, a United Nations agency, said that 157,000 of those who have left the country were foreign nationals. 

Poland was by far the biggest recipient of refugees from Ukraine. As of Sunday, more than 1.7 million people arrived from Ukraine to Poland, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

12:54 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

US issues new sanctions on Belarusian president

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, on February 18.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, on February 18. (Sergei Guneyev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States applied new sanctions Tuesday on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has allied with Russia in its war in Ukraine.

A number of other Russians, including a Russian judge, were also targeted with sanctions for human rights abuses, according to the US Treasury Department.

The sanctions were applied to Lukashenko as well as his wife, Halina. They would block their property and interests in the United States and prohibit Americans from engaging in transactions with them.

“Today’s designations demonstrate the United States will continue to impose concrete and significant consequences for those who engage in corruption or are connected to gross violations of human rights,” Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki said. “We condemn Russia’s attacks on humanitarian corridors in Ukraine and call on Russia to cease its unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine."

The US previously applied sanctions to members of Lukashenko’s family in December after a migrant crisis on Belarus’s border with Poland, which led to accusations of human rights abuses.

The US has also targeted Belarus with sanctions previously for its role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including extending export control policies to Belarus and preventing diversion of tech and software to Russia through the country.

In addition to the Lukashenkos, the US targeted four individuals involved in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in suspicious circumstances in 2009.