March 16, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Helen Regan, Adam Renton, George Ramsay, Ed Upright and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, March 17, 2022
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10:14 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky is showing a graphic video of Russia's attacks in Ukraine

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky shows a video at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky shows a video at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16. (Pool)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is showing a graphic video now showing fighting in his country and attacks by Russian forces as part of his address to US Congress.

Earlier in this remarks, Zelensky reiterated his calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine and lauded the bravery of the Ukrainian people.

The video ended with a slate that said "close the sky over Ukraine."

During Zelensky’s video presentation, the pool could hear a pin drop in the room. A few members took videos with their phones. The audio on the video was low in the room. Not overpowering but soft and emotional. 

Ukrainian-American GOP Rep. Victoria Spartz did not sit but stood in the back of the room throughout the speech. During the video, she was very emotional. 

Late in the speech GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn walked up next to the press pool and was seen watching the video.

Pool reporters inside the hall contributed reporting to this post.

Warning Graphic Video

WATCH:

9:21 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky again called for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Here's what it means.

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

In his virtual address to members of US Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his calls for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Lawmakers of both parties have said they are wary of a no-fly zone at this time because they think it could pit the US directly against Russia in the skies over Ukraine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, told reporters on Tuesday that, despite requests from Zelensky, the White House does not support instituting a no-fly zone over Ukraine or supplying the Ukrainian Air Force with new fighter aircraft.

What is a no-fly zone? A no-fly zone is an area where certain aircraft cannot fly for any number of reasons. In the context of a conflict such as the one in Ukraine, it would probably mean a zone in which Russian planes were not allowed to fly, to prevent them from carrying out airstrikes against Ukraine.

NATO has imposed no-fly zones in non-member countries before, including Bosnia and Libya. However, it is always a controversial move because it means getting semi-involved in a conflict without fully committing ground forces.

What would happen if NATO imposed a no-fly zone? The problem with military no-fly zones is that they have to be enforced by military power. If a Russian aircraft flew into a NATO no-fly zone, then NATO forces would have to take action against that aircraft. Those measures could include shooting the plane from the sky. That would, in Russia's eyes, be an act of war by NATO and would likely escalate the conflict.

Why hasn't NATO imposed a no-fly zone? Neither Ukraine nor Russia is a member of NATO. Russia President Vladimir Putin clearly sees NATO as a direct threat to his authority and has recently criticized its expansion toward Russia, using it as justification for his invasion of Ukraine.

As a result, NATO is extremely reluctant to become directly involved in the Ukraine conflict with a rival nuclear power. While it supports Ukraine's resistance and recognizes Putin's actions as an invasion of a sovereign nation, the alliance is simply not prepared to do anything that could be interpreted as a direct act of war on Russia and risk an escalation that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

Read more about the no-fly zone here.

CNN's Clare Foran and Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post.

12:51 p.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky to US Congress: "Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided"

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16. (Pool)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky opened his address to Congress by lauding the bravery of the Ukrainian people and saying the "destiny" of his country is being decided right now amid the Russia invasion.

The capital city of Kyiv is "under missile and air strikes from Russian troops every day. But it doesn't give up, Zelensky, addressing Congress virtually, said via a translator.

He said his country is "in the worst war since World War II."

"I have the honor to greet you on behalf of the Ukrainian people, brave and freedom-loving people, who for eight years have been resisting the Russian aggression," he said. "Those who give their best sons and daughters to stop this full-scale Russian invasion."

"Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people where the Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy. Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities, it went on a brutal offensive against our values, basic human values," he said.

Watch Zelensky's remarks:

9:09 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky gets a standing ovation from US Congress

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16. (Pool)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky received a standing ovation from United States lawmakers ahead of his virtual address to the US Congress.

He's addressing members now.

9:12 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

NOW: Ukraine's Zelensky speaks to members of US Congress as Russian forces inch toward Kyiv 

From CNN's Clare Foran and Ted Barrett

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 16. (Pool)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is delivering a virtual address via video to members of the US House and Senate.

The remarks come as the United States is under pressure from Ukraine to supply more military assistance to the embattled country.

What we expect he will say: Zelensky is expected to call for the US to help enforce a no-fly zone in Ukraine — to protect civilians — and provide fighter aircraft that the Ukrainians can use to defend themselves.

These two controversial options divide lawmakers, with Republicans more hawkish about giving Ukraine jets, but some Democrats — and the White House — concerned Russia could consider such a move an escalation and potentially draw America into war.

While there is widespread bipartisan support for aid to Ukraine, many lawmakers also believe the US should be careful not to be drawn into any kind of direct, armed conflict with Russia.

US President Joe Biden plans to detail US assistance to Ukraine in a speech of his own later in the day Wednesday.

10:59 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Russian warships shell 4 villages near Odesa, according to Ukrainian army

From CNN staff

Russian warships in the Black Sea have shelled the Ukrainian coast in areas close to the key southern city of Odesa, according to Ukraine’s armed forces. 

According to a statement posted on the armed forces’ Facebook page, the villages of Lebedivka, Sanzheika, Zatoka and Bilenke, which all lie about 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) south of the port city, have been shelled in the last 24 hours. 

Odesa is Ukraine’s third largest city and regarded as a key target of Russia’s campaign. 

An amphibious assault is seen as a probable part of any move to take the city and increased shelling of targets along the coast will increase fears that such an assault could be imminent.

9:01 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky will play a video during his remarks to US Congress

From CNN's Annie Grayer

The US House Radio and TV Gallery just informed reporters inside the room on Capitol Hill that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will play a video during his virtual remarks.

They will extend the program by about three minutes. But the video will not conclude his remarks. He will continue to speak after the video concludes. 

The room is filling in now with US lawmakers. It's more than half full now. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been speaking with the Ukrainian ambassador near the front of the room for at least five minutes.

8:40 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

5 key things to watch in Zelensky's address to US Congress

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will deliver a speech soon to members of the US Congress, marking a rare moment for the Eastern European leader to address American lawmakers as his country continues to fight against the Russian invasion.

Zelensky's remarks will take place the day after US President Joe Biden signed a massive spending bill into law, which includes more than $13 billion in Ukraine aid.

Zelensky, who remains in Ukraine, will address members of Congress at 9 a.m. ET. Here's what to watch for:

  1. Calls for more assistance, pressuring Biden and NATO: Zelensky is expected to renew his calls for more weapons, as well as a no-fly zone over Ukraine, during the address.
  2. Specific appeals to an American audience: Zelensky may use his platform with Washington to make a specific appeal to the lawmakers in the room and the Americans watching at home.
  3. A possible call on Congress to vote on sanctions: Zelensky may call on lawmakers to move forward on harsher sanctions against Russia. During his most recent call with Biden, Zelensky pressed the US to implement further sanctions against Russia, in an effort to cut the country off from international trade and target the Russian elite.
  4. A potential call for the US to accept Ukrainian refugees: More than 3 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday. Nations across Europe have continued to see an increase in Ukrainian refugees entering their countries, with more than 1.8 million Ukrainians crossing into Poland's territory as of Tuesday, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees data.
  5. Biden's show of force: In the hours after Zelensky's speech to Congress, Biden is slated to deliver a speech demonstrating the support the US is providing to Ukraine. Biden is expected to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance, according to an official — bringing the total announced in just the last week to $1 billion and $2 billion since the beginning of the Biden administration.

Read more about the speech here.

8:40 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

As Zelensky prepares to address Congress, here’s what you need to know today

A handout photo shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on March 16 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A handout photo shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on March 16 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukraine Presidential Press Service/ABACA/Reuters)

It's been almost three weeks since Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February. If you're just joining us, here are the latest developments in the conflict:

  • Zelensky's speech: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to deliver a virtual address to members of the US Congress at 9 a.m. ET. There is widespread support among US lawmakers for delivering aid to Ukraine, and last week Congress approved an emergency aid package of $13.6 billion in humanitarian, defensive and economic assistance as Russia’s invasion continues. Today, Zelensky is expected to call for the US to help enforce a no-fly zone in Ukraine -- to protect civilians -- and provide fighter aircraft that the Ukrainians can use to defend themselves.
  • NATO membership: Meanwhile, Zelensky has dropped his clearest hint yet that he does not expect his country to join NATO anytime soon. He also criticized the effectiveness of the military alliance's Article 5 provision -- which outlines that an attack on one member is an attack on all -- by calling it “weak.” Ukraine's desire to join NATO and its status as a NATO partner, seen as a step towards eventual full membership, was among the numerous grievances Russian President Vladimir Putin cited in an attempt to justify his country’s invasion.
  • Safe haven for evacuees attacked: The central Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, a destination for thousands of evacuees from the besieged city of Mariupol, has come under Russian fire for the first time, according to officials in the regional administration. No casualties were recorded. Earlier on Wednesday, regional authorities said 3,207 vehicles had reached Zaporizhzhia from Mariupol, adding that shelter had been provided for more than 3,000 people.

  • Russia's reinforcements: Faced with “continued personnel losses” in Ukraine, the Russian military is calling up reinforcements from across the entire country, according to the latest public intelligence assessment released by the UK Ministry of Defence. It added that Russia was redeploying forces from as far away as "its Eastern Military District, Pacific Fleet and Armenia" and was increasingly tapping other sources of fighters such as "private military companies, Syrians, and other mercenaries."
  • Negotiations resume: Talks between Russia and Ukraine are set to pick up again on Wednesday after winding down on Tuesday evening, according to the Ukrainian delegation. Zelensky has said that Russia’s negotiating position is becoming “more realistic,” but Vladimir Medinsky, a Russian presidential aide, said his country's objectives in the negotiations have not changed since talks between the two sides began.