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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12:00 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

It's 6 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

New satellite image shows the destruction of Russian helicopters at an airport in Kherson while survivors and drone footage reveal the scale of devastation in the southern city of Mariupol.

Here's the latest:

  • Zelensky's NATO signal: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has dropped his clearest hint yet that he does not expect his country to join NATO anytime soon. “For years we have been hearing about how the door is supposedly open [to NATO membership] but now we hear that we cannot enter. And it is true, and it must be acknowledged,” he said. Kyiv's wish to be part of the 30-member defense alliance was among the grievances Russian leader Vladimir Putin cited in an attempt to justify his invasion of Ukraine. In another address Tuesday, Zelensky said NATO's Article 5 — the principle that an attack on one member is an attack on all — "has never been as weak as it is now." 
  • Zelensky to address US lawmakers: The Ukrainian President is set to deliver a rare wartime speech to the US Congress Wednesday and is likely to make fresh calls for steps like a no-fly zone and help acquiring fighter jets. President Joe Biden has rejected those moves as potentially dragging the US into conflict with Russia, but is coming under increasing pressure from lawmakers to do more on Ukraine. The US President is expected to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, a White House official told CNN.
  • On the ground: Recent satellite and drone images show the Ukrainian military destroyed at least three Russian military helicopters at Kherson airport in southern Ukraine. It comes as key cities, including around Kyiv and Mariupol, reported extensive damage and dire situations that have been described as "hell." Explosions were heard in Kyiv's suburbs early Wednesday as air raid sirens once again blared in the Ukrainian capital. Fatalities were also reported Tuesday after shelling hit buildings in residential areas across Kyiv.
  • Hospital captives allegations: A Ukrainian official has accused Russian troops of holding people captive at a Mariupol hospital. The head of Donetsk regional administration said doctors and patients were being held against their will in the Mariupol regional intensive care hospital. The city's deputy mayor also said Russian forces are "destroying" the besieged city. In Mariupol, smoldering homes could be seen. Ukrainian officials estimate more than 2,500 civilians have died in the city.
  • EU leaders' visit: The Czech Prime Minister said the "main goal" of the Polish, Slovenian and Czech leaders' visit to Kyiv was to tell Ukrainians they are "not alone" in their fight against the Russian invasion. The three leaders arrived by train Tuesday and met with Zelensky and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
  • Evacuations: Nearly 29,000 civilians were evacuated through evacuation corridors Tuesday, Ukraine's deputy prime minister said, with most of them — 20,000 — leaving Mariupol. Of the 4,000 cars that left the city, 570 had arrived in the southeastern city of Zaporizhia, an official said. Thousands more were evacuated from the Sumy region, while 320 wards and employees of a hospital were evacuated from the Kharkiv region.
11:39 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Ukrainian women who escaped their country return to help fight Russia's invasion

From CNN's Ed Lavandera and Cristiana Moisescu in Przemysl, Poland

There is a sole train line that runs between Ukraine and the station in the border town of Przemysl, Poland. The trains that go back and forth are a faded blue and yellow, the national colors of the besieged country.

The scene on Platform Five looked different this week. Thousands of refugees were still coming off the trains from Ukraine, mostly women and children looking for safety as Russian forces step up their attacks.

But the people waiting for the journey back across the border were no longer almost entirely male. This line was perhaps half full of women queuing to get back to the war zone.

Mariia Halligan told CNN she's going to her home city of Kyiv to be with her family and Canadian husband to fight, in her words, "Russian terrorists."

"If I have to do this, I will do it for my country, for my relatives, for my friends," she said, adding there was no room for her to be nervous.
"I'm not (a) man, I can't kill. I'm (a) woman and my work (is to) keep balance and help, and be kind, and care about relatives, family, friends and all Ukraine. But now I feel all Ukrainians (are) my relatives. And I hope that world society will help Ukrainians, all Ukrainians, because it's my family."

She clutched a paper heart, made for her in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag by Polish children, who hoped it would be a good luck talisman.

Every woman in the line on this cool, cloudy day had their own reasons for returning to their country at war. But one theme seemed to connect almost every woman waiting to board the train. They view returning home to a war zone as an act of symbolic resistance to Russian aggressors.

Their faces looked determined, and the line was quieter than the emotional rush of people fleeing into Poland.

Read the full story:

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

How to watch Ukrainian President Zelensky's virtual address to Congress

From CNN's Shawna Mizelle

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will deliver a virtual address Wednesday to US members of Congress, as Ukraine continues to press the United States for more assistance in its fight against Russia's unprovoked and deadly ongoing invasion.

Zelensky will appear via video conference and be introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she gavels in the session. He is expected to speak for approximately 15 minutes.

Zelensky's remarks are set to air live at 9 a.m. ET.

Watch it here: A livestream of Zelensky's speech to Congress will be featured on without requiring a login. CNN's special coverage of the speech will stream live for pay TV subscribers only via CNNgo ( and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, Samsung Smart TV and Android TV) and on the CNN mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the expected appearance in a letter to members on Monday, writing that "as war rages on in Ukraine, it is with great respect and admiration for the Ukrainian people that we invite all Members of the House and Senate to attend" the address.

Zelensky is likely to make fresh calls for steps like a no-fly zone and help acquiring fighter jets in his address to lawmakers.

President Joe Biden has so far rejected those steps as potentially dragging the US into conflict with Russia, but, according to the White House, the President is intent on demonstrating the support the US is providing and will detail it in a separate speech later Wednesday.

According to a US official, Biden is expected to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance for Ukraine, bringing the total pledged to $2 billion since the beginning of the Biden administration. 

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Clare Floran and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

10:07 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

At least 3 Russian military helicopters blown up in Ukrainian strike on Kherson airport

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

A satellite image shows a plume of smoke rising from the Kherson International Airport on Tuesday, March 15. When zoomed in, the images show a number of helicopters on fire.
A satellite image shows a plume of smoke rising from the Kherson International Airport on Tuesday, March 15. When zoomed in, the images show a number of helicopters on fire. (Planet Labs, PBC)

The Ukrainian military destroyed a number of Russian military helicopters at the Kherson International Airport Tuesday, new satellite images from Planet Labs show.

A large black plume of smoke is seen rising from the airport in the satellite image, with a number of helicopters on fire.

In a zoomed-in portion of the image, helicopters can be seen burning.
In a zoomed-in portion of the image, helicopters can be seen burning. (Planet Labs, PBC)

It's the most destructive known strike the Ukrainian military has conducted against Russian helicopters during the war, with at least three Russian helicopters seen on fire, or destroyed, at the airport.

Military vehicles seen near the airport have also been hit. 

A large plume of smoke rises from the airport.
A large plume of smoke rises from the airport. (From Telegram)

Another image, taken by a drone hovering above the nearby village of Komyshany, also shows the large plume of smoke rising from the airport. 

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the image.

The military strike at the airport was picked up by NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS), which tracks large fires around the world. 

According to the sensory data collected by FIRMS, the military strike occurred around 1:42 p.m. local time.

A satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows a number of Russian military helicopters sitting on the tarmac at the airport on Monday.
A satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows a number of Russian military helicopters sitting on the tarmac at the airport on Monday. (Maxar Technologies)

On Monday, satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed a number of Russian military helicopters on the tarmac at Kherson's International Airport. Dozens of military vehicles are also seen in the surrounding area. 

8:44 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

"Europe stands with you": EU leaders express solidarity with Ukraine after Zelensky meeting

From CNN's Antonia Mortensen, Abby Baggini, Mariya Knight and Jeevan Ravindran

The Prime Ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic reaffirmed their support for Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion during a meeting Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in the capital, Kyiv.

Following the meeting, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called for the European Union to "very quickly" grant Ukraine candidate status.

"We are here to admire your fight against such a cruel aggressor. This invasion has to stop," Morawiecki said. "Those who are killed by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, they can never be forgotten. They are not forgotten."

He also emphasized Poland, which shares a 310-mile (500-kilometer) border with Ukraine, would try to help Ukraine organize its defenses.

"We will never leave you alone. We will be with you. Because we know you are fighting not only for your homes, for your freedom, for your security, but also for ours," he said.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said having an in-person discussion with Zelensky was "something really special."

"The main goal of our visit and the main message of our mission is to say to our Ukrainian friends that they are not alone, that Europe stands with you," Fiala said.

Fiala said he wanted to assure Ukrainians we are "hosting your wives and children" and providing them with "refuge" in the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic has now taken in 250,000 refugees, according to the prime minister, who said they will "continue to provide more aid and support."

Zelensky thanked the EU leaders for their "wonderful support" when "so many other ambassadors have left Ukraine because of the full-scale Russian invasion."

"Most important, is that we truly trust these leaders," Zelensky said. "When we are talking about the security guarantees, about our future in the European Union, or when we talk about the sanctions policy, we are 100% assured that whatever we are discussing, whatever we talk about, this will reach a positive outcome for our country."
He continued that with "friends like this," Ukraine "can win."

Read more:

8:46 p.m. ET, March 15, 2022

Survivors and drone footage reveal the scale of destruction in Ukraine's Mariupol

From CNN's Olga Voitovich, Ivana Kottasová, Jack Guy and Paul P. Murphy

Conditions in Mariupol are "unbearable" and "just hell," residents who fled the besieged city in southeastern Ukraine have told CNN, as shocking drone footage and satellite photos emerged showing the utter devastation wrought by the Russian bombardment.

Mariupol city council said on Tuesday that an estimated 2,000 private cars have been able to leave the city, and a further 2,000 vehicles are parked on the main route out of Mariupol as of 2 p.m. local time Tuesday.

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.

As many as 2,500 civilians have died in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials estimate. About 350,000 people are trapped in the city, with officials warning those who remain are without electricity, water and heat.

Two women who managed to escape to the Zaporizhzhia region, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) away, on Monday told CNN about conditions in Mariupol and the frightening journey out.

Lidiia, who did not give her surname due to safety concerns, told CNN that she decided to leave Mariupol after Russian bombardments started hitting closer to her home.

"We left the city under shelling — there is no silence in Mariupol," the 34-year-old said. "Today we talked to our neighbors, they said that the situation now is even worse, so no one knows whether people will be able to leave Mariupol today."

She said she had spent two weeks in a basement with about 60 other people, adding she only left occasionally to retrieve items from her apartment.

Describing the journey out of the city, Lidiia said: "We stopped several times and hid the children because the airplane was flying very low directly above us. We were afraid that we would come under fire. But it was no longer possible to stay in the city. Mariupol is now just hell."

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