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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10:48 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

New Zealand's Prime Minister conveys support in call with Ukrainian counterpart

From CNN's Isaac Yee

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures during the post-Cabinet press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, March 7.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures during the post-Cabinet press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, March 7. (Mark Mitchell/AP)

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated her support of Ukraine during a call with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Saturday.

“Prime Minister Shmyhal thanked New Zealand for being one of the first countries to take swift practical action against Russia’s aggression. As he noted, when it comes to the importance of the global response, there is no bigger or smaller country, there are only countries that are reacting,” Ardern said in a statement.

“New Zealand will continue to call on Russia to immediately cease military operations in Ukraine, and permanently withdraw to avoid further catastrophic loss of innocent life.”

Travel ban: The call comes after New Zealand added an additional 364 Russian political and military targets to a travel ban list on Friday.

At the same time, 13 individuals and 19 entities were added to a sanctions list, which included asset freezes. Those on the list include Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

10:30 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Zelensky to Russia: "It's time to meet, time to talk"

From CNN's Yulia Shevchenko and Hira Humayun

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video message early Saturday morning March 19.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a video message early Saturday morning March 19. (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky/Facebook)

In a video message early Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Russia: "It's time to talk."

"I want everyone to hear me now, especially I want them to hear me in Moscow. It’s time to meet, time to talk, time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine, or else Russia will face such losses that several generations will not be enough for it to rise back up," he said in the video posted to Facebook.

Pushing for negotiation: Zelensky said the Russian military's actions were worsening the situation for their own country, and that honest negotiations "without stalling" were the only way to mitigate the damage.

"We always insisted on negotiations," Zelensky said, "We always proposed dialogue and solutions for peace. Not just during the 23 days of invasion."

Civilian evacuations: The President added that 180,000 Ukrainians have been rescued through evacuation corridors to date, and that seven corridors were functioning in the country on Friday — six in the Sumy region and one in the Donetsk region.

Rescue work continues at the site of the destroyed theater in Mariupol. More than 130 people have been rescued, many of whom are injured, but there has not been any information released on casualties, he said.

"War must be stopped," Zelensky said. "The Ukrainian proposal is on the table."
8:47 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

A Chinese vlogger shared videos of war-torn Ukraine. He's been labeled a national traitor

From CNN's Jessie Yeung and Yong Xiong

Wang Jixian didn't set out to become the Chinese voice of resistance in Ukraine. The 36-year-old resident of Odesa, a key target in Russia's invasion of the country, simply wanted to show his parents he was fine.

"I'm coming back from buying groceries," he said in a video posted to Douyin, China's version of TikTok, on February 24, the first day of the invasion. Wang, a programmer originally from Beijing, described buying meat and fruit in the video, remarking that some food stores were still open.

But his mood darkened as the days passed and the Russian assault escalated. When he logged onto Douyin, he said he would see Chinese videos praising Russian troops or supporting the invasion.

"I was very angry, then I thought I would record videos for them, and I'll tell them what the real battlefield is," he told CNN.

His daily videos, posted across various platforms including YouTube and the Chinese messaging app WeChat, quickly gained traction as a rare voice offering Chinese audiences a glimpse into war-torn Ukraine — a stark contrast from Chinese state media, which has promoted Russian disinformation such as unfounded claims Ukrainian soldiers are using "Nazi" tactics.

In one widely-watched video, Wang held up his Chinese passport and said, "These Ukrainian guards are not Nazis, they are IT programmers, common people, barbers — these are the people."

But in doing so, he had waded into the middle of a messy controversy, with China facing international pressure as it refuses to condemn Russia's invasion, and an outpouring of pro-Russia sentiment on China's highly restricted and censored social media — something Wang is hoping to change.

Read the full story:

8:11 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Norway searches for US military aircraft involved in "mishap" during NATO training

From CNN's Barbara Starr

A US military aircraft participating in NATO exercises in Norway has been involved in a “mishap,” and a search and rescue operation is underway, according to the US Marine Corps.

The aircraft is an MV-22B Osprey assigned to the II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) US military unit in Norway.

“The aircraft was participating in Exercise Cold Response 2022,” the Corps said in a statement. “Norwegian civil authorities are leading the search and rescue efforts at this time.”

“Although the nature of military service is inherently dangerous, the safety of our Marines, Sailors, Allies and partners is our top priority,” the statement said.

In a separate statement, Maj. Jim Stenger said, “We can confirm an incident has occurred involving a Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey aircraft. The aircraft was conducting training in Norway as part of Exercise COLD RESPONSE 22 at the time of the incident.”

“The cause of the incident is under investigation," Stenger said. 

8:47 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

CNN identifies 2 buildings hit at Mykolaiv military base, where journalists report troops have been killed

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Abby Baggini, Samson Desta and Jonny Hallam

Dozens of Ukrainian troops were reported to have been killed at a military base in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine following a Russian strike on Friday March 18.
Dozens of Ukrainian troops were reported to have been killed at a military base in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine following a Russian strike on Friday March 18. (Niclas Hammarstrom/Expressen)

CNN has identified two locations at a military base in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine that were hit by Russian strikes on Friday.

One location was documented by a photographer of the CNN Swedish affiliate Expressen, and another building was seen to be hit in photos and video on Telegram about 800 feet away to the north. 

It's unclear if any individuals were killed in the military strike at the second location. At the location in the Expressen photos, a number of bodies are seen.

According to journalists who were at the scene from Expressen, dozens of Ukrainian troops are reported to have been killed at the military base.

Expressen correspondent Magnus Falkehed and photojournalist Niclas Hammarström reported that around 6 a.m. local time on Friday (12 a.m. ET), “two Russian fighter jets dropped what appeared to be five bombs,” destroying several buildings at the military barracks.

Rescuers at the scene used shovels and their bare hands to free survivors from the rubble of the buildings, according to the journalists. In dramatic video filmed by Expressen, one Ukrainian soldier is seen being pulled alive from wreckage.

Expressen quoted one of the surviving soldiers, 54-year-old Serhil, who was sleeping in the barracks opposite where the attack hit, as saying that “of the approximately 200 who were there, I would guess about 90 percent did not survive.”

"Glass flew everywhere. I prayed to God that I would have time to take shelter before more bombs came. There are always more bombs," Nikita, a 22-year-old Ukrainian soldier, told Expressen.

Mykolaiv, a southern city that sits along the Black Sea, has been a frequent target of Russian bombings. Prior to Friday's bombings, Russian forces had already attacked Mykolaiv with cluster munition rockets in three separate attacks spanning a week, according to a Thursday report by Human Rights Watch.

7:42 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

These are the requests from Zelensky that Western allies have not yet fulfilled 

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

Two Polish Air Force MIG-29's are seen at the 22nd Air Base Command in Malbork, Poland on August 27, 2021.
Two Polish Air Force MIG-29's are seen at the 22nd Air Base Command in Malbork, Poland on August 27, 2021. (Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

While the United States and other NATO member nations have fulfilled a number of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's requests to help hinder Russian forces, they have stopped short of certain measures they say could risk an escalation in the war.

These are some of Zelensky's asks left unfulfilled:

No-fly zone: Zelensky has repeatedly called on Ukraine's allies to establish a no-fly zone over the country. 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.

The problem with military no-fly zones is that they have to be enforced by a 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.

S-300 missile defense systems: This surface-to-air missile system can strike targets that are both higher in altitude and farther away than Stinger missiles are designed for.

Slovakia has preliminarily agreed to provide Ukraine with a key Soviet-era air defense system to help defend against Russian airstrikes, according to three sources familiar with the matter. But the US and NATO are still grappling with how to backfill that country's own defensive capabilities, and the transfer is not yet assured.

MiG fighter jets: Earlier this month, the US dismissed a proposal from Poland to transfer its MiG-29 fighter jets to the United States for delivery to Ukraine.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement that the US did not believe Poland's proposal was "tenable" and that it was too risky.

"The prospect of fighter jets 'at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America' departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance," Kirby said.

Read more about the aid that Western allies have provided so far here.

7:13 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Mayor of Velykoburlutska community released after being "captured" by Russians, Kharkiv governor says

From CNN's Olena Mankovska and Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman

Viktor Tereshchenko, mayor of the Velykoburlutska community in Ukraine's northeastern region of Kharkiv, has been released, according to a video message from Kharkiv Regional State Administration's head Oleh Syniehubov on Friday.

On Thursday, Syniehubov said Tereshchenko was "captured" by Russian forces.

"The enemy's released Viktor Tereshchenko. ... I've just spoken to him. He is at hospital receiving treatment. He is a good man who stands firm and sticks up for his community, his residents, his electorate. Once again this only proves that the enemy shall not prevail and no one will surrender an inch of our land to the enemy," Syniehubov said in the Friday statement.

He said that Russian forces did not allow the delivery of aid along the evacuation corridors, so local officials set up logistical aid centers in nearby towns that needed it most.

On Tuesday, the mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, who had been detained by Russian forces, was freed as part of a prisoner swap. On Sunday Yevhen Matveyev, the leader of Dniprorudne, a small city north of Melitopol, was abducted by Russian troops, according to Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

CNN could not independently confirm the claim.

8:15 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Former US Presidents Bush and Clinton visit Ukrainian church in Chicago to show "solidarity"

From CNN's Mary Kay Mallonee

Former US Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton visited the Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago to “show solidarity with the people of Ukraine” on Friday March 18.
Former US Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton visited the Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago to “show solidarity with the people of Ukraine” on Friday March 18. (From Bill Clinton/Twitter)

Former US Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton visited a Ukrainian church in Chicago to “show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”

The presidents both tweeted video of their visit to Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church, each carrying bouquets of bright yellow sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine.

“America stands united with the people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom and against oppression,” Clinton tweeted.

“America stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they fight for their freedom and their future,” according to a tweet from The George W. Bush Presidential Center.

6:37 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

From drones to missiles, here's the military aid that allies are sending to Ukraine

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

Ukrainian servicemen unload a plane with the FGM-148 Javelin, American man-portable anti-tank missile provided by the US to Ukraine on February 11.
Ukrainian servicemen unload a plane with the FGM-148 Javelin, American man-portable anti-tank missile provided by the US to Ukraine on February 11. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has implored Western allies to provide his country with military aid as Russia continues its unprovoked invasion.

"We need you right now," Zelensky told US members of Congress in one of his latest pleas for assistance before a friendly government.

The US and other NATO member nations have fulfilled a number of Zelensky's requests, while stopping short of certain measures they say could risk an escalation in the war.

The military aid provided to Ukraine so far includes weapons that range from portable drones to complex, long-range missile systems. Here's what's been sent:

Switchblade drones: Small, portable, so-called kamikaze drones that carry warheads and detonate on impact. The smallest model can hit a target up to six miles away, according to the company that produces the drones, AeroVironment. It's unclear which size model the US will send to Ukraine.

Stinger anti-aircraft missiles: These heat-seeking, anti-aircraft missiles have a range of about five miles and 11,000 feet. Critically, Stinger missiles can distinguish between enemy and friendly aircraft.

Javelin anti-tank weapons: This guided missile system can be shoulder-fired by a single solider and has a range of up to 8,200 feet.

AT-4 anti-armor systems: These Swedish anti-armor weapons are "lightweight, single-shot and fully disposable," according to the company that produces them, Saab Bofors Dynamics.

Patriot air defense missile system: The US also delivered two missile defense systems to Poland this month intended to deter Russia and boost Poland's security amid Western concerns that the Ukraine conflict could spill into NATO-aligned nations.

The Patriot air defense missile system — Patriot stands for "Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept of Target" — is designed to counter and destroy incoming short-range ballistic missiles, advanced aircraft and cruise missiles.

The battery includes missiles and launching stations, a radar set that detects and tracks targets, and an engagement control station, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

Continue reading the full story here: