Russia constructing earthen berms to protect military positions northwest of Kyiv, satellite images show
From CNN's Paul P. Murphy
The Russian military is quite literally digging in, constructing earthen berms around its military equipment northwest of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, according to Maxar Technologies' analysis and satellite images.
The new satellite images show the protective berms around Russian military equipment near Ozera and the Antonov Air Base.
Additional Russian military equipment, and some berm construction, are also seen in the villages of Zdvyzhivka and Berestyanka, further northwest.
4:37 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022
White House downplays Lavrov's remarks on weapons shipments: "That's a threat that he has made before"
From CNN's Nikki Carvajal
The White House downplayed threats made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov against material assistance coming into Ukraine after US President Joe Biden pledged to send more than $800 million in security assistance. On Friday, Lavrov said any weapons shipments entering Ukraine will be a “legitimate” target for Russia.
“That's a threat that he has made before,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins during a press briefing Friday, adding that “there are no US troops operating inside Ukraine,” with all US forces operating exclusively in NATO territory.
“As we're talking about the operations of the movement of convoys, and the movement of assistance, those are not the bodies that would be moving those assistance within Ukraine,” Psaki said. “We watch closely what the actions are, the continued escalatory actions of the Russians, and we will watch closely if they follow up on that threat.”
As CNN previously reported, Lavrov reportedly said the Russians had “made it very clear that any cargo that will enter the territory of Ukraine, which we will consider ... [carrying] weapons, will become a legitimate target," according to state TV channel RT. A number of NATO countries, including the US, have pledged military aid to Ukraine ranging from drones to anti-tank missiles.
Lavrov said Soviet and Russian-made missile defense systems, which are available to some NATO countries, cannot be legally transferred to third countries, according to TASS.
But Psaki added that some of the convoys were also bringing humanitarian assistance.
“We continue to have the means of getting that assistance in and we have effectively been doing that in recent days,” she added, “so we will continue to work through those channels.”
4:13 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022
It's just after 10 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know
As Friday ends in Ukraine, here's a look at the latest developments that have happened so far in the war.
Hundreds likely still under rubble: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that 130 people have been rescued from the bombed theater in the city of Mariupol so far. Hundreds of people were taking shelter at the theater when it was bombed on Wednesday. Speaking on Ukrainian TV, Zelensky said that rescue operations are continuing at the site despite the difficulties. However, hundreds of people are still under the rubble in Mariupol, Zelensky added.
Impacted areas: Lviv, Kramatorsk and a district in Kyiv were hit by Russian weapons, according to Ukrainian authorities. But the Ukrainian army offered a rosy assessment of Russian advancement on Kyiv, saying Russia’s two main routes for attacking the capital city have been blocked. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also said on Friday that the US has "seen a number of missteps" by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he was concerned about the situation in Mariupol, the Ukrainian city that has been hit by constant shelling over recent days, according to the Elysée Palace.
Evacuations: Nine corridors to evacuate civilians from towns and cities badly hit by Russian attacks had been agreed for Friday, according to the Ukrainian government. For the second day running, one of the agreed corridors links the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, which remains under Ukrainian control.
New satellite images from Maxar Technologies are showing more areas in Mariupol have been destroyed from intense firefights between Russian and Ukrainian militaries. Just southwest of Mariupol, a line of cars — residents evacuated from the city — was seen traveling along the highway toward Berdyansk.
Deaths mount: The United Nations estimates that over 800 Ukrainian civilians have lost their lives since the Feb. 24 Russian invasion began, but "believes that the actual figures are considerably higher."
Biden and Xi speak: 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.
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
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.
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."
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
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 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.