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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3:20 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

"Mariupol is now just hell": What to know about the deteriorating situation in the Ukrainian city

This color infrared satellite image shows fires burning in eastern Mariupol, Ukraine on March 14.
This color infrared satellite image shows fires burning in eastern Mariupol, Ukraine on March 14. (Maxar Technologies/AP)

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

Here's what we know about the situation:

  • Hospital captives allegations: Doctors and patients were being held against their will in the Mariupol regional intensive care hospital, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration. Kyrylenko said a hospital employee told him staff and patients were staying in the basement, where the sick and injured continued to be treated. "It is impossible to get out of the hospital. They shoot hard, we sit in the basement. Cars have not been able to drive to the hospital for two days. High-rise buildings around us are burning … the Russians have rushed 400 people from neighboring buildings to our hospital. We can't leave,” Kyrylenko said, quoting the employee. Sergei Orlov, deputy mayor of Mariupol, also said the hospital was occupied by Russian troops, who used doctors and patients as captives. "We do not have any access to them," he said.
  • City's destruction: Orlov said Russian forces are "destroying" Mariupol with regular attacks. "Yesterday, we counted 22 aircraft which were bombing our city, and at least 100 bombs they used to bomb our city. The damage is awful," he said Tuesday. Satellite images from Maxar Technologies Monday show the extent of the damage, including homes smoldering after apparently suffering Russian strikes, a destroyed apartment complex and rising plumes of thick smoke.
  • Trapped residents: About 350,000 people are trapped in Mariupol and as many as 2,500 civilians have died, Ukrainian officials estimate. Those who remain are without electricity, water and heat. One woman who managed to escape said she had spent two weeks in a basement with about 60 others, and only left occasionally to retrieve items from her apartment. Another woman said she let 17 people shelter in her house after their homes were destroyed, and cooked soup in her garden using rainwater. She described shells flying overhead "around the clock."
  • Evacuations: For weeks, there has been a failure to formally establish safe corridors to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, which has been besieged since March 1. However, Ukraine's deputy prime minister said about 20,000 people managed to leave Tuesday.

Read more about Mariupol here.

8:17 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Analysis: Zelensky to appeal to Americans as Russia intensifies bombardments

Analysis from CNN's Stephen Collinson

Rarely in modern times has a political leader matched his moment so bravely.

But a tangible note of desperation is now lacing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inspirational rhetoric as he pleads for a more direct Western intervention to save Ukraine as merciless Russian President Vladimir Putin's troops lay waste to cities and bombard civilians.

The measures the warrior President says his country needs to survive — like NATO-enforced no-fly zones and Soviet-era jets from ex-Warsaw Pact states that are now part of the West — are seen by the Biden administration as a step too far because they could drag the US into a dangerous escalation with its nuclear-armed rival.

Zelensky's heartrending daily appeals, alongside the horrifying images of civilian casualties, are making it impossible to ignore the torment of Ukraine and its people.

If the worst happens and he ends up being killed and Ukraine falls, addresses like the one to US lawmakers will stand as an indictment of Putin's barbarism and of a global system that was unable to stop it.

Read the full analysis:

12:54 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Pakistan sends emergency aid to Ukraine

From CNN's Sophia Saifi in Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistan sent two C-130 planes of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine Tuesday night, according to Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Speaking at Noor Khan Airbase in the Pakistani capital as the planes departed, Qureshi said the aid was sent at the request of the Ukrainian Embassy in Islamabad.

The aid includes tents, blankets, sleeping bags, generators, soap, hand wash, medicine and canned food.

Pakistan “wishes for the situation to settle down through dialogue and diplomacy,” Qureshi said, adding the aid is being sent on the basis of Pakistan’s “long history of good relations with Ukraine.”

Some context: Pakistan has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine — abstaining from a vote of the UN General Assembly on March 2.

Pakistan's United Nations ambassador Munir Akram said at the time the country was "deeply concerned" by the war in Ukraine and "repeatedly stressed the need for de-escalation, renewed negotiations."

The heads of various foreign missions in Pakistan — including the EU, the US, the UK, Norway and Japan — previously issued a joint letter urging Islamabad to condemn Russia's invasion.

12:39 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Analysis: Nordic countries wonder if they are next on Putin's list

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

Russian President Vladimir Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has done more to unify Western Europe than almost any event since the end of World War II.

Nations that were neutral have provided arms for Ukrainians; governments that had for years missed their NATO defense spending obligations have made spectacular U-turns; and countries that had deep economic ties to Russia have gone further in breaking the link than anyone had seriously envisaged little over a month ago.

The fate of the three Nordic nations that sit on the Scandinavian Peninsula — Norway, Sweden and Finland — has been brought into sharp focus by the crisis due to their unique relationship with each other, the rest of Europe and Russia.  

  • Both Norway and Finland share land borders with Russia, though Norway's is significantly smaller at under 124 miles (200 kilometers), compared to Finland's 800-mile frontier.
  • Norway, the Western-most of the three, is a member of NATO but is not in the European Union, while Finland and Sweden are in the EU, but not in NATO.  
  • All three have historically supported a non-confrontational approach to Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union due to their proximity.
  • All three are also members of the EU's Schengen area, meaning there is borderless travel between the three countries.  

It's these last two facts that have played a significant role in the major rethink of European security over the past three weeks: How can you have a policy of non-confrontation when you also simultaneously share an open land mass with Russia? 

But that policy appears to be changing: Active conversations, once viewed by Sweden and Finland as a risky act of provocation against Russia, are now taking place in both countries about joining NATO. And, along with their neighbor Norway, both are throwing non-confrontation out the window.  

"Finland and Sweden suddenly breaking long-held position(s) not to export arms to war zones and sending supplies to Ukraine has been the biggest shock for Europeans in terms of the Nordic response — and I suspect for Putin," said Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a leading researcher in global security at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.  

Read the full analysis here.

12:26 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Russia is calling in military reinforcements from across the country, UK Defense Ministry says

From CNN's Josh Campbell 

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 Tuesday by the UK Ministry of Defence. 

“Russia is increasingly seeking to generate additional troops to bolster and replace its personnel losses,” the UK assessment said.
“It is likely Russia is struggling to conduct offensive operations in the face of sustained Ukrainian resistance.” 

The UK ministry said 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."

“Russia will likely attempt to use these forces to hold captured territory and free up its combat power to renew stalled offensive operations,” the UK assessment said. 
8:16 a.m. ET, March 16, 2022

Zelensky signals he doesn't expect Ukraine to join NATO anytime soon. Here's what to know

From CNN's By Andrew Carey, Oleksandra Ochman, Kylie Atwood and Paul LeBlanc

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attendees applaud after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed them by video link during a meeting of the the Joint Expeditionary Force, in London, Tuesday, March 15.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attendees applaud after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed them by video link during a meeting of the the Joint Expeditionary Force, in London, Tuesday, March 15. (Justin Tallis/Pool/AP)

Ukrainian 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 during an address by video link to leaders of the British-led Joint Expeditionary Force.
"I am glad that our people are beginning to understand this and rely on themselves and on our partners who assist us."

Here's why Zelensky's comments are significant:

  • What is NATO: The security alliance of 30 North American and European nations was created in 1949 in response to the start of the Cold War. Its original purpose was to protect the West from the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
  • Why Putin sees it as a threat: Since the end of the Cold War, many former Soviet satellite states have joined NATO, meaning Russia now shares a land border with the world's largest military alliance, tempering Russian leader Vladimir Putin's geopolitical ambitions in what was once Moscow's sphere of influence.
  • Putin's excuse for war: Ukraine's desire to join NATO, and its status as a NATO partner — seen as a step on the way to eventual full membership — was among the numerous grievances Putin cited in an attempt to justify his country's invasion of its neighbor.
  • Reaction: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Zelensky's remarks a "reflection of reality" as "Ukraine was not going to get into NATO tomorrow." Blinken called Putin's concerns about Ukraine being centered on its admission to NATO "a lie." Putin has demonstrated that the war is about "denying Ukraine its independent existence," Blinken said.
  • Article 5: Zelensky also criticized the effectiveness of NATO's Article 5 provision — the principle that an attack on one member is an attack on all — calling it "weak." His comments came as key cities in Ukraine, including around Kyiv and Mariupol, reported extensive damage and dire situations for residents. The US is reluctant to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine or supply the country with jets, two things repeatedly requested by Zelensky, as it could escalate into a direct confrontation with Russia.
"Some states of alliance have intimidated themselves, saying that they can't answer. That they cannot collide with Russian missiles and planes in the Ukrainian sky. Because this, they say, will lead to escalation, will lead to the Third World War. … And what will they say if Russia goes further to Europe, attacking other countries? I am sure the same thing they say to Ukraine. Article 5 of the NATO treaty has never been as weak as it is now. This is just our opinion," Zelensky said.

Read the full story here.

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 CNN.com without requiring a login. CNN's special coverage of the speech will stream live for pay TV subscribers only via CNNgo (CNN.com/go 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.