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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4:07 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

New satellite images show significant destruction and long line of cars leaving Mariupol

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

(Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)
(Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

New satellite images from Maxar Technologies are showing more areas in the city of Mariupol have been destroyed from intense firefights between Russian and Ukrainian militaries.

In one of the images, taken in western Mariupol, apartment complexes are seen burnt and debris scattered around them. Outside one of them, a number of buses are seen, and some are burnt.

In northern Mariupol, the apartment buildings surrounding two schools have been damaged. 

(Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)
(Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

Just southwest of Mariupol, a line of cars is seen traveling along the highway towards Berdyansk.

3:59 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

White House: US will be watching President Xi's actions closely going forward after call with Biden

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden's nearly two-hour video call with his Chinese counterpart hasn't assuaged US concerns that China may be willing to provide military or financial support to Russia, the White House says.

Instead, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US would be watching President Xi Jinping's actions closely going forward.

"We have that concern. The President detailed what the implications and consequences would be if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians. And that is something we'll be watching and the world will be watching," Psaki said.

She said "actions are a key part of what we will be watching." 

On the call, Biden offered his view of the invasion of Ukraine and spelled out the implications should China intervene in support of Russia. But he did not offer a specific request to Xi.

"China has to make decision for themselves on where they want to stand and how they want the history books to look at them and view their actions," Psaki said. "That is a decision for President Xi to make."

Psaki said Biden would discuss China's role in the conflict when he meets with NATO and G7 leaders in Brussels next week.

3:11 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Russian forces have launched "more than 1,080 missiles" since beginning of invasion, US defense official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman and Barbara Starr

Russian forces have launched “more than 1,080 missiles” since the beginning of their invasion of Ukraine, a senior US defense official said Friday.

Reports of missile strikes in the western part of Ukraine “in the vicinity of the Lviv International Airport appear to be accurate,” the official said.

The official did not have additional information on where the origin of the missile strikes in the western part of Ukraine were from or how much damage they caused at this time.

The airspace over Ukraine “remains contested,” the official added.

3:12 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

US Commerce Dept: Oligarch's plane among those in apparent violation of export law tied to Russia's invasion

From CNN's Ross Levitt and Jennifer Hansler

The US Commerce Department is warning that servicing certain aircraft tied to Russia could constitute a violation of export laws.

The department provided a list of aircraft that are in “apparent violation” of Export Administration Regulations, known as EAR, including one owned by prominent oligarch Roman Abramovich

The export restrictions were put in place last month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The department has since compiled this list, which it says is not exhaustive. 

The department, in a statement, warned against “providing any form of service to these aircraft requires authorization. Absent such authorization, any person anywhere—including within Russia—risks violating the EAR and would be subject to BIS enforcement actions which could include substantial jail time, fines, loss of export privileges, or other restrictions. By preventing these aircraft from receiving any service, for example including from abroad, international flights from Russia on these aircraft are effectively grounded.”

Some of the actions that are restricted include “refueling, maintenance, repair, or the provision of spare parts or services.”

“We are publishing this list to put the world on notice—we will not allow Russian and Belarusian companies and oligarchs to travel with impunity in violation of our laws,” US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in the statement.

5:41 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

In call with Xi, Biden laid out consequences for China if it supports Russia attack on Ukraine

From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Nikki Carvajal and Kaitlan Collins

In this photo released by the White House, US President Biden speaks with President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China on Friday, March 18.
In this photo released by the White House, US President Biden speaks with President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China on Friday, March 18. (White House Photo)

US President Joe Biden told CNN that his call with Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday "went well."

According to the White House, Biden "described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia" in a nearly two-hour phone call with China's leader.

"The President underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis," the White House said.

The White House added that the two leaders "also agreed on the importance of maintaining open lines of communication."

A senior administration official, meanwhile, said that Biden's phone call was "direct," "substantive" and "detailed."

The bulk of their discussion centered on the war in Ukraine, and the implications the crisis would have both on US-China relations and the "international order," the official said.

Biden provided an assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions in his conflict with Ukraine, the official said, and "made clear" the implications and consequences of potentially assisting Russia in its war.

More on the call: The secure video call between Biden and Xi began at 9:03 a.m. ET on Friday. It lasted one hour and 50 minutes, and concluded at 10:53 a.m EDT, the White House said.

According to Chinese state media CCTV, Xi told Biden, "conflict and confrontation are not in the interests of anyone," and "China and the US have a responsibility to work for peace."

Here's a full readout of the call from the White House:

"President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The conversation focused on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. President Biden outlined the views of the United States and our allies and partners on this crisis. President Biden detailed our efforts to prevent and then respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia. He described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians. The President underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. The two leaders also agreed on the importance of maintaining open lines of communication, to manage the competition between our two countries. The President reiterated that U.S. policy on Taiwan has not changed, and emphasized that the United States continues to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo. The two leaders tasked their teams to follow up on today’s conversation in the critical period ahead."

CNN's David Chalian breaks down the call in today's episode of the CNN Political Briefing podcast. Listen here.

6:36 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

US has seen Russia make "a number of missteps" in Ukraine invasion, US defense secretary tells CNN

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (CNN)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday said that the US has "seen a number of missteps" by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

In offering an assessment of Russia's troops, Austin told CNN's Don Lemon in an exclusive interview that the Russians "have not progressed as far as quickly as they would have liked."

Austin told CNN that the Russians have "struggled with logistics" and that he has not seen evidence of "good employment of tactical intelligence" nor "integration of air capability with a ground maneuver." 

"There are a number of things that we would expect to have seen that we just haven't seen. ... Many of their assumptions have not proven to be true as they entered this fight," he said. 

Since the invasion Ukraine began nearly a month ago, Russian troops have bombarded and destroyed large parts of cities including Mariupol and Kharkiv, but Ukraine has been able to prevent Russia taking large swaths of the country, including the capital of Kyiv.

"I think (Russia) envisioned that they would move rapidly and very quickly seize the capital city, they've not been able to do that," the Pentagon chief said.

In the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance to its invasion, Russia is also coping with low troop morale and struggling to resupply the thousands of troops in the country, US and NATO officials told CNN this week.

Lemon's full interview with Austin will air at 10 p.m. ET tonight on CNN.

2:14 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

French president voiced "extreme concern" about Mariupol with Putin, according to Elysée Palace

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad, Simon Bouvier and Camille Knight

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a meeting in Pau, France on March 18.
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a meeting in Pau, France on March 18. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he was very concerned about the situation in Mariupol, the Ukrainian city that has been hit by constant shelling over recent days, according to the Elysée Palace.

According to a statement from the Elysée, Macron “shared his extreme concern with President Putin regarding the situation in Mariupol and once again demanded an immediate ceasefire.”

“President [Macron] asked him for concrete and verifiable measures to lift the siege of Mariupol, allow humanitarian access and an immediate ceasefire,” the statement added.

“The [French] President again brought up the deterioration of the situation in Ukraine, the continued strikes hitting civilians and failure to respect humanitarian law while negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian delegation have for now not led to any progress,” according to Macron's office.

In response to a journalist’s question about whether Putin had accused Ukraine of war crimes on the call with Macron, the Elysée said: "As he has done publicly, President Putin again placed responsibility for the conflict on Ukraine." 

The call lasted just over one hour, according to the Elysée. 

1:40 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

At least 3 cruise missiles shot down by air defenses in Vinnytsia on Friday, civil authorities say

From Khrystyna Bondarenko in Vinnytsia, Ukraine

At least three cruise missiles were shot down by air defenses in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia on Friday morning, the head of Vinnytsia war and civil administration reported.

Vinnytsia has faced increasing rocket fire from Russian forces; the city’s TV tower and airport have both been hit by airstrikes in the past two weeks, according to Ukrainian authorities.

1:36 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Baltic states expel 10 Russian diplomats in coordinated decision

From Alex Hardie in London

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have expelled 10 Russian diplomats, according to statements from their foreign ministries on Friday.

In a tweet on Friday, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs confirmed that the decision “has been coordinated with #Lithuania and #Estonia.”

Lithuania declared four employees of the Russian Embassy to be persona non grata, while Latvia and Estonia have each done the same for three Russian Embassy staff. 

“Current activities of those persons under diplomatic cover are incompatible with their diplomatic status and are causing detriment to the Republic of Latvia,” Latvia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday.

“The persons subject to expulsion must leave the Republic of Latvia by 23:59 on 23 March,” the statement continued.

Lithuania also ordered the four diplomatic staff to leave the country within five days, according to its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Russian special services are actively involved in the planning and execution of the military invasion of Ukraine, threatening not only the security of Ukraine but also that of Lithuania,” the Lithuanian ministry's statement said.

Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that all three Russian Embassy staff members “have directly and actively undermined Estonia’s security and spread propaganda justifying Russia’s military action”.

“The activity of the persons in question has been in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and therefore they must leave Estonia within 72 hours,” the Estonian ministry added.