March 18, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, George Ramsay, Jeevan Ravindran, Laura Smith-Spark, Peter Wilkinson, Adrienne Vogt and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022
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2:01 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Smoke seen rising from direction of Lviv airport

(CNN)
(CNN)

CNN's team in Lviv filmed footage of smoke rising from the direction of the city's airport after they heard explosions Friday morning. 

Multiple unverified social media videos appear to show smoke rising from the same location.

Some context: Lviv is located about 43 miles (70 kilometers) from the Polish border and has been relatively untouched by Russian attacks to date.

1:34 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Multiple explosions heard in Lviv

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq in Lviv, Ukraine

Smoke is seen on the horizon in Lviv.
Smoke is seen on the horizon in Lviv. (CNN)

CNN's team in the city of Lviv, western Ukraine, heard multiple explosions minutes after sirens went off Friday morning.

12:37 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Biden and Xi will speak on Friday. Here's where China stands on the war

From CNN's Jessie Yeung and Simone McCarthy in Hong Kong

As Chinese President Xi Jinping prepares for a phone call with his US counterpart on Friday, the war in Ukraine looms large — with Beijing's position on Russia's invasion under increasing international scrutiny.

Russia-China friendship: Though not military allies, China and Russia have in recent years burnished their partnership in trade, technology and coordination of military exercises, while becoming increasingly vocal about what they view as Western interference into their domestic affairs -- pushing back on US-led sanctions and often voting as a bloc in the United Nations.

The war began just weeks after Beijing declared a limitless partnership with Moscow. In February, Xi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing — the Chinese leader's first in-person summit with another head of state in nearly two years.

The meeting saw the two leaders sign a 5,000-word joint statement that included an expression of their shared disapproval of NATO expansion — an issue that's been key to Putin's rationale for his assault on Ukraine.

Days before the invasion, Beijing continued to publicly dismiss US intelligence that a Russian attack on its neighbor was imminent. Views diverge on how much Xi may have known about Putin's true plans.

Precarious position: Since the war began, China has tried to project a neutral stance. It has not condemned Russian actions, and has refused to label the attack an invasion. Chinese diplomats have criticized NATO expansion and accused the United States of fueling the conflict. But they have also called for a diplomatic solution.

As the war drags on, experts believe Beijing's position is growing increasingly untenable — for two main reasons:

  1. Economic threat: If China lends support to Russia, it could violate Western sanctions. Chinese enterprises involved could then be hit by secondary punitive measures — potentially signing their economic death on the global market.
  2. Diplomatic threat: Beijing's stance could sink relations between China and major Western trading partners. Trade between the European Union and China topped $800 billion last year and US-China trade was over $750 billion, according to China's official data, while its trade with Russia was just under $150 billion. Even before the war, the US-China relationship was deteriorating over issues like trade, Taiwan, and Beijing's human rights record — and there were signs Europe was also hardening its outlook on China.

Potential consequences: Russia has asked China for military and economic support, according to conversations CNN had with two US officials — and the US has intelligence suggesting Beijing has expressed some openness to this request, a Western official and a US diplomat told CNN.

It is not yet clear whether China intends to provide Russia with that help, US officials familiar with the intelligence tell CNN — but according to the White House, Biden will lay out the potential ramifications of such an action during the call with Xi.

12:04 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

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

Relentless Russian strikes on Ukrainian cities including Chernihiv and Mariupol have caused widespread damage, according to officials, while Russia’s advance on Kyiv appears to have stalled.

Here's the latest:

  • Theater bombing survivors: On Thursday, survivors began emerging from the rubble of a theater in the southern port of Mariupol following its bombing by Russian forces, according to the former head of the Donetsk region. The number of casualties is unknown. Ukraine’s defense minister branded the Russian pilot who bombed the theater a “monster.” Satellite images geolocated by CNN show the word “children” was written in large letters on two sides of the building, where civilians were sheltering.
  • Biden's talks with Xi: US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine Friday, according to a White House statement. Biden would "speak directly" to Xi about the potential consequences of providing Russia with military aid, the White House press secretary said. The call comes after recent assertions from US officials that Russia has asked China for military support in Ukraine. Beijing and Moscow have both denied the claims.
  • Russia's army is struggling, UK MoD says: Russia continues to face logistical problems in its “faltering invasion of Ukraine,” Britain's Ministry of Defence said Thursday. In its intelligence update, the ministry said Russian forces were being prevented from resupplying “forward troops with even basic essentials such as food and fuel,” due to their inability to control Ukrainian airspace and challenges on the ground.
  • US citizen killed: The American killed in Chernihiv on Thursday has been identified as James Whitney Hill of Minnesota. He was among several people killed when Russian artillery opened fire on civilians in the city, according to city officials. In his last Facebook post, Hill described the intensifying bombing around where he lived in Ukraine and said, "No way out."
  • Appeal to Germany: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed German lawmakers on Thursday, drawing parallels between the Berlin Wall during the Cold War and Ukraine’s current position outside of the EU and NATO. He also explicitly referenced the post-Holocaust motto: "never again." Zelensky said: “Every year politicians say never again. Now I see that these words are worthless.” Germany's leader said NATO will not risk an escalation in Ukraine by intervening with military force.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger's message: The former California governor made an impassioned appeal to the Russian people in a video posted on social media, asking them to resist the Kremlin's disinformation. "I urge the Russian people and the Russian soldiers in Ukraine to understand the propaganda and the disinformation that you are being told. I ask you to help me spread the truth," he said.
11:29 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

US citizen killed in Ukraine described increasing hardships for civilians in Chernihiv

From CNN's Steve Almasy

James Whitney Hill is seen in this 2013 Facebook photo.
James Whitney Hill is seen in this 2013 Facebook photo. (From James Whitney Hill)

Months before Russian troops attacked Ukraine, American Jimmy Hill went there to be with his Ukranian partner, Ira, who has multiple sclerosis. When war broke out, Hill stayed, despite the deteriorating conditions in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv.

"He was not going to leave Ira's side in her condition," Hill's sister Katya told CNN. "Jim was in Ukraine this time because he had gotten medicine from the United States and had found a doctor in Chernihiv that would treat her."

Hill was among dozens of civilians killed by the Russian onslaught Thursday in Chernihiv.

Ukrainian police said he died during artillery fire. His sister told CNN the family didn't get specifics about his death from the US Embassy.

Chernihiv, to the northeast of Kyiv and close to the Russian border, has seen some of the most intense shelling from Russian forces since the war began more than three weeks ago.

Hill often traveled to Ukraine yearly to visit his partner, according to his longtime friend Karin Moseley. They had been together for around 13 years, she told CNN.

His Facebook posts throughout March chronicled the worsening situation in Chernihiv, detailing air raid sirens, daily explosions and an "orange sky over the city" amid fires. His final entry read: "Bombing has intensified noway (sic) out."

A school in the Czech Republic where Hill taught posted a statement on Facebook expressing their loss. 

“Jimmy was a passionate teacher in our Summer School on Crime, Law and Psychology program since 2014 and was loved by the students from all over the world. We will miss Jimmy very much," the Prague Summer Schools said in the post.

Read more:

11:21 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

Arnold Schwarzenegger's message to Russians: "Help me spread the truth"

From CNN's Travis Caldwell

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made an impassioned appeal to the Russian people in a video posted on social media, asking them to resist their country's disinformation as the devastating invasion of Ukraine continues.

Schwarzenegger said he was "sending this message through various different channels" for Russian citizens and soldiers, and hoped his message about the atrocities committed by its government and military would break through. The video posted on Twitter has more than 16 million views.

"Ukraine did not start this war. Neither did nationalists or Nazis," he said. "Those in power in the Kremlin started this war."

Russian President Vladimir Putin and government officials have made false accusations toward Ukraine as their motivations for the invasion, baselessly saying the country must "deNazify."

"There are things that are going on in the world that are being kept from you, terrible things that you should know about," Schwarzenegger said.
"I know the Russian people are not aware such things are happening, so I urge the Russian people and the Russian soldiers in Ukraine to understand the propaganda and the disinformation that you are being told. I ask you to help me spread the truth."

He heavily criticized the Russian government for the invasion, saying they "lied not only to its citizens but to its soldiers" for the reasons behind the war.

Read more:

11:24 p.m. ET, March 17, 2022

UK Defense Ministry: "Faltering" Russian troops face logistical challenges like food shortages

From CNN's Josh Campbell and Masha Angelova 

A column of Russian military vehicles is seen abandoned in a forest near Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 6.
A column of Russian military vehicles is seen abandoned in a forest near Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 6. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian military continues to face logistical problems in its “faltering invasion of Ukraine,” Britain's Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Thursday. 

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said Russian forces were being prevented from resupplying “forward troops with even basic essentials such as food and fuel,” due to their inability to control Ukrainian airspace and challenges on the ground.

Russian forces have been reluctant to maneuver across the country, the ministry said, but did not provide additional details on its knowledge of Russia’s strategic moves. 

“Reluctance to maneuver cross-country, lack of control of the air and limited bridging capabilities are preventing Russia from effectively resupplying their forward troops with basic essentials such as food and fuel,” the ministry said. 
“Incessant Ukrainian counterattacks are forcing Russia to divert large numbers of troops to their own supply Iines. This is severely limiting Russia’s offensive potential.”
12:12 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Ukraine's UN ambassador confronts Russian counterpart about civilians killed in attacks

From CNN staff

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya 
Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya  (UNTV)

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya directly addressed his Russian counterpart at the UN Security Council on Thursday about civilians killed by Russians in Ukraine.

"Ambassador, do the eyes of Ukrainian children, women, and elderly killed by the Russians flash before you?" Kyslytsya asked.

He continued, "If they do, we may consider how to sponsor a decision to help you deal with perpetration-inducted traumatic stress. But now, have some decency and stop the egregious manipulation of the Security Council. It is obscene."

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia did not respond to the comments during the meeting, but later told reporters he does not "engage in personal exchanges" with Kyslytsya. 

"But when he asked about the eyes of children killed, I would also like to ask him whether he had any remorse when he thought about the children of Donetsk that were killed by Ukrainian forces,"��Nebenzia said.

Kyslytsya also spoke to reporters after the meeting, saying there has not been any improvement in the situation in Ukraine. 

"No, there is no improvement. The actions of the Russian Federation continue to be very brazen and the atrocities are taking place every day, unfortunately," Kyslytsya said.

12:16 a.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Mariupol suffering 50 to 100 attacks daily, city council says

From CNN staff

Residential buildings damaged by rocket and air strikes are seen in Mariupol, Ukraine on Thursday, March 17.
Residential buildings damaged by rocket and air strikes are seen in Mariupol, Ukraine on Thursday, March 17. (Maksim Blinov/Sputnik/AP)

Mariupol is being hit by between 50 to 100 artillery shells daily, according to the council of the besieged Ukrainian city. 

"The city has been under blockade for 16 days, more than 350,000 Mariupol residents continue to hide in shelters and basements from continuous shelling by Russian occupation forces," a city council statement said. 

It continued: “About 80% of the city's housing stock has been hit, almost 30% of which cannot be restored.” 

The statement, released early Thursday evening, said information about casualties from the attack on the theater being used as a shelter was still being clarified.