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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8:20 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Top official rejects "neutrality" model for Ukraine without security guarantees

From Tim Lister and Julia Kesa in Lviv

A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the country's government rejects the idea floated by Russia that Ukraine should adopt a Swedish or Austrian model of neutrality.

Mykhailo Podolyak said that Ukraine was now in a state of war with Russia, and the security model "can only be Ukrainian" with "legally verified security guarantees. And no other models or options."

"What does that mean?" he continued. "First, absolute security guarantees, which would mean that the signatories of guarantees do not stand aside in the event of an attack on Ukraine, as it is today."
Instead, they would "take an active part on the side of Ukraine in the conflict and provide us with an immediate supply of the necessary weapons."

The Kremlin said Wednesday “demilitarization” of Ukraine could be a compromise for Russia, suggesting a Swedish or Austrian model of a state.

"This is an option currently discussed and which could really be seen a compromise," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a regular conference call with journalists.

The head of the Russian delegation in talks with Ukraine, Vladimir Medinsky, earlier spoke about an Austrian or Swedish version of a neutral state in Ukraine with refusal to deploy foreign bases or enter the bloc, but at the same time with the presence of its own armed forces.

Podolyak said: "Ukraine has never been a militaristic state that attacks or plans to attack its neighbors ...That is why today Ukraine wants to have a really strong pool of allies with clearly defined security guarantees."

He also repeated the demand for a no-fly zone over Ukraine that would include both aircraft and missiles.

CNN's Sarah Dean contributed reporting to this post.

7:40 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Japan to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" status over Ukraine invasion 

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a press conference on March 16 in Tokyo, Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a press conference on March 16 in Tokyo, Japan. (Stanislav Kogiku/Getty Images)

Japan will revoke Russia’s "most favored nation" (MFN) trade status in response to its invasion of Ukraine, the country's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a news conference on Wednesday.

As a member of the World Trade Organization, Russia is treated as a MFN, which gives it equal access to all the WTO members' markets and guarantees equal tariffs.

Japan's latest move follows President Joe Biden's announcement Friday that the US, along with G7 nations and the European Union, intended to revoke Russia’s MFN status

During the news conference, Kishida called the Russian invasion of Ukraine a "historic atrocity" and said that Japan would continue to work closely with G7 nations to strengthen financial sanctions against Russia.  

Kishida said Tokyo would further expand the scope of asset freezes against Russian oligarchs close to the Putin administration, prevent Russia from using digital currencies to avert sanctions and ban imports of specific products from the country. 

Tokyo will also work with G7 nations to prevent Moscow from tapping loans from the International Monetary Fund, Kishida said.

Japan will also collaborate with international aid agencies to deliver food and medicine to Ukrainians, he continued, adding that the country had started accepting evacuees from Ukraine and called on the public's support.

7:31 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Kremlin says despite sanctions, Putin is still open to speaking to Biden

From CNN's Sarah Dean

Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t spoken to US counterpart Joe Biden since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, but contact between the two leaders can resume if necessary, the Kremlin said Wednesday.

“If necessary, contacts [between Biden and Putin] can resume,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on his regular conference call.

“Imposing sanctions on [top US officials] does not mean stopping contacts,” Peskov added.

On Tuesday, Russia sanctioned top US officials, including Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in response to sanctions from the US.

7:26 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Russian rocket hits TV tower in central Ukrainian city, say authorities

A TV tower in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia has been hit by Russian rocket fire, knocking out the city’s broadcasting facilities, according to a statement from Ukraine’s state communications service.

There are no reports of any casualties. A CNN team in the area report hearing aircraft and two explosions at around 4 a.m. local time.

It is the latest in a series of communications towers to be hit by Russian forces, including structures in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Vynarivka and most recently in the northwestern city of Rivne.

Authorities in Rivne now say 21 people were killed in the strike that targeted the TV tower there.

Wednesday’s strike is the second significant targeting of Vinnytisa since the war began. Ten days ago, Russian missiles destroyed Vinnytsia’s airport.

7:21 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Oil industry faces "what could turn into the biggest supply crisis in decades," IEA warns

Oil pumping jacks in a Rosneft Oil Co. oilfield in the Udmurt Republic in Russia, on November 20, 2020.
Oil pumping jacks in a Rosneft Oil Co. oilfield in the Udmurt Republic in Russia, on November 20, 2020. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning that potential large-scale disruptions to Russian oil production is "threatening to create a global oil supply shock.”

This comes in light of tough sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine and as buyers increasingly avoid Russian oil purchases.

“We estimate that from April, 3 mb/d (million barrels per day) of Russian oil output could be shut in as sanctions take hold and buyers shun exports," the IEA said in its oil market report.

"OPEC+ [the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] is, for now, sticking to its agreement to increase supply by modest monthly amounts. Only Saudi Arabia and the UAE hold substantial spare capacity that could immediately help to offset a Russian shortfall."

OPEC has been facing calls to ramp up production amid soaring energy prices. In its last meeting, the organization agreed to stick to their current plan of gradually increasing output by just 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) per month. It meets again on March 31.

“Surging commodity prices and international sanctions levied against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine are expected to appreciably depress global economic growth,” the IEA said, which cut its 2022 global oil demand outlook by 1.3 million barrels per day.

It warned that the industry is faced “with what could turn into the biggest supply crisis in decades.”

The implications of a potential loss of Russian oil exports to global markets cannot be understated," the IEA added.

"Russia is the world’s largest oil exporter, shipping 8 mb/d of crude and refined oil products to customers across the globe," it noted.

6:50 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Czech crowdfunding campaign raises $30 million for weapons for Ukraine

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in Lviv

A crowdfunding campaign aiming to raise money for weapons for Ukraine has raised over $30 million from more than 100,000 supporters since it was launched last month, according to the Czech Ministry of Defense.

The campaign is coordinated by the Czech government with the money going to the Embassy of Ukraine in Prague.

The proceeds are being used to buy weapons and other military supplies that Ukraine needs to defend itself from the Russian invasion, according to a statement from the Czech Ministry of Defence.

The Czech government said it has made available $185 million worth of military supplies that can be purchased with the money from the crowdfunding campaign.

“Arms, military equipment and ammunitions urgently needed by the Ukrainian military and the Territorial Defense Force to fill depleted stockpiles are part of the offer," the ministry said.

"Heavy military systems and ammunitions of 'Eastern' design are under consideration for delivery to Ukraine as well."

6:46 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Putin's actions in Ukraine are causing an oil price spike, says Boris Johnson. Here's how the UK is planning to deal with that

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson inspects the Guard of Honor as he arrives at Abu Dhabi airport for his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on March 16.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson inspects the Guard of Honor as he arrives at Abu Dhabi airport for his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on March 16. (Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom is to set out its new national energy strategy next week amid “global uncertainty” caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi as part of a trip which will see him visit the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Johnson stressed the need to “be prepared” when faced with knock on price increases.

“What Putin is doing in Ukraine, it’s causing global uncertainty and a spike in the price of oil. That feeds through to the forecourts in the UK. Everybody can see the effect of the increase in in gas prices that’s coming through,” Johnson said.

Next week, the UK government will set out its national energy strategy, according to Johnson, which will see a “massive jump forward on renewables, more nuclear” and a more effective use of UK hydrocarbons.

The prime minister said he is not only visiting the UAE and Saudi Arabia due to its oil reserves, adding that they are “some of the biggest investors here in the Gulf, in UK renewables in our wind farms.”

The UK needs “to double the pace of our construction of wind farms,” the prime minister stressed.

“When we look at the dependency that the West in particular has built up on Putin’s hydrocarbons, on Putin’s oil and gas. We can see what a mistake that was because he has been able to blackmail the West, to hold Western economies to ransom,” Johnson remarked.

7:11 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zaporizhzhia, a destination for thousands of evacuees, has been shelled for the first time, say officials

From Tim Lister, Julia Kesa and Olga Voitovych in Lviv

Evacuees from Mariupol are seen in the parking lot of a shopping center on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 15.
Evacuees from Mariupol are seen in the parking lot of a shopping center on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on March 15. (Emre Caylak/AFP/Getty Images)

The central Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia has come under Russian fire for the first time, according to officials in the regional administration.

Oleksandr Starukh, the head of Zaporizhzhia regional administration, said on his Telegram channel that the railway station and the area around the botanical garden were struck. No casualties had been recorded.

Separately, the southern command of the Ukrainian armed forces said the damage had probably been done by two missiles, but one had not exploded.

Zaporizhzhia is the destination for thousands of people leaving Mariupol, the besieged city on Ukraine's southern coast.

As of 2 a.m. local time on Wednesday, regional authorities said 3,207 vehicles had reached Zaporizhzhia from Mariupol. Shelter had been provided for more than 3,000 people.

6:19 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Tributes roll in for Fox News cameraman killed in Ukraine

From Eva Tapiero and Anaëlle Jonah in Paris

This image released by the Fox News Channel shows cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski while on assignment with colleagues, the Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan and Jerusalem-based senior producer Yonat Friling, background right, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
This image released by the Fox News Channel shows cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski while on assignment with colleagues, the Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan and Jerusalem-based senior producer Yonat Friling, background right, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Pierre Zakrzewski/Fox News/AP)

France and Ireland have paid tribute to Pierre Zakrzewski, a dual-citizenship Franco-Irish photojournalist killed in Ukraine while on assignment for Fox News network.

Irish President Michael Higgins “offered his deepest sympathies to the family of Pierre Zakrzewski” in a statement released late Tuesday.

“The indiscriminate killings of civilians including journalists must be brought to an end,” the statement says.

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin, meanwhile, said in a tweet Tuesday that he condemned “this indiscriminate and immoral war by Russia on Ukraine.”

French Foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also paid his respects, saying in a Wednesday statement that “it is with great emotion that I learned of the death in Ukraine of the Franco-Irish journalist Pierre Zakrzewski and the Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova."

“I send my deepest condolences to his family, to the family of Oleksandra Kuvshynova and to their loved ones, and stand by them in the face of this tragedy” the statement adds.

“I reiterate the obligation of the armed forces to protect journalists in conformity with international humanitarian law and I condemn in the strongest terms any action that targets them."

Some context: Zakrzewski, 55, and Kuvshynova, 24, were killed in an attack while reporting near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Monday. Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall was also seriously injured and hospitalized in the attack.

The deaths come as journalists working in Ukraine increasingly find themselves coming under fire. Brent Renaud, an award-winning American documentarian, was killed on Sunday in an attack that also injured journalist Juan Arredondo. A Sky News team released footage earlier this month showing them being violently ambushed.