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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9:30 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky references Mt. Rushmore, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 in appeal to US Congress

From CNN's Eric Levenson

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 made references to Mount Rushmore, the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in his pitch to American lawmakers in Congress on Wednesday.

"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, speaking through a translator. "It threw tanks and planes against our freedom, against our right to live freely in our own country, choosing our own future. Against our desire for happiness, against our national dream, just like the same dreams you have, you, Americans. Just like anyone else in the United States.

"I remember your national memorial in Rushmore, the faces of your prominent presidents, those who laid the foundation of the United States of America as it is today, democracy, independence, freedom and care for everyone, for every person, for everyone who works diligently, who lives honestly, who respects the law," he continued.

Zelensky also asked lawmakers to remember the attacks of Pearl Harbor in World War II and on the World Trade Center in 2001 in considering his request for help.

"Remember Pearl Harbor, the terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Just remember it. Remember September 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, into battlefields. When innocent people were attacked, attacked from air," he said.

"Just like nobody else expected it, you could not stop it. Our country experienced the same every day."

Zelensky also invoked the famous words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in asking for military help: "I have a dream, these words are known to each of you today I can say. I have a need, I need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help, which means exactly the same, the same you feel when you hear the words 'I have a dream.' "

WATCH:

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.