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
56 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
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.

1:29 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

OSCE investigation into human rights abuses in Russian war in Ukraine is underway

From Jennifer Hansler

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s investigation into human rights abuses and atrocities committed in the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine is now underway.

The fact-finding mission, which comes after 45 countries invoked a rare OSCE mechanism that is used to investigate human rights concerns, is being led by three experts chosen by Ukraine from an OSCE list of experts.

“The mission has already begun and the experts have started their work,” said Katya Andrusz, the spokesperson for the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). “The mission itself will last around three weeks, after which Ukraine will have the opportunity to comment on the report before it’s finalized."

An email inbox has been established for people to send information relevant to the fact-finding mission. Andrusz said the inbox has been receiving a lot of information from a variety of sources, and it will be open for the entirety of the investigation.

The OSCE does not have the authority to legally punish Russia if it finds evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but their facts can be given to other bodies that do have that authority.

The Moscow Mechanism is a serious step, and according to the OSCE, it has been triggered only nine other times since its establishment in 1991. It was most recently used in 2020 to investigate human rights abuses in Belarus.

Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are all members of the OSCE.

2:07 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Ukrainian army says Russia's main routes for attacking Kyiv have been blocked

From CNN's Andrew Carey and Olga Voitovych in Lviv 

Smoke rises over Kyiv, Ukraine on March 18.
Smoke rises over Kyiv, Ukraine on March 18. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

The Armed Forces of Ukraine have issued an upbeat assessment of their defense of Kyiv, saying Russia’s two main routes for attacking the capital city have been blocked. 

In the face of a campaign to apparently encircle the capital ahead of a possible attempt to take it, Russian forces on both sides of the Dnipro river — which divides the city north to south — have been stopped, according to Oleksandr Hruzevych, deputy chief of staff.

“As of today, the enemy has been stopped at a distance of almost 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) from the city’s right bank, which makes it impossible to carry out fire, except for rocket fire. On the left bank, the advance has [also] been stopped. The enemy is cynically shooting at our infrastructure facilities. [But] the main ways of attack are blocked,” he said Friday. 

Russian forces had abandoned offensive actions around Brovary to the northeast of Kyiv, and Boryspil to the southeast, Hruzevych said. After creating two lines of defense to protect the capital, Hruzevych said Ukraine’s army was now “working on strengthening a third, distant line of defense.” 

Addressing the threat posed by cruise missiles, the brigadier general said an air defense system was still in operation around Kyiv, but admitted missiles intercepted over the city still posed a threat. One person was killed in such an incident Friday morning in the northwestern district of Podilskyi, the city council said earlier. 

On Friday morning, four cruise missiles fired from warplanes over the Black Sea had smashed into an aircraft parts plant in the western city of Lviv. Two further missiles had been intercepted by air defense systems before they could hit their target.  

"The Black Sea and Belarus are two difficult directions from which the enemy launches missile strikes,” Hruzevych acknowledged. But, he continued: “An effective system has been developed where the missiles are to be destroyed on approach. We are now working on a system that will minimize the impact of missiles for civilians." 

He also said a campaign to remove the threat of saboteurs in the capital had already resulted in the elimination of more than 100 people. 

1:35 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

US defense secretary tells US and NATO troops in Bulgaria they are creating "trust" by training together

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks with US troops in Bulgaria on March 18.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks with US troops in Bulgaria on March 18. (Robert Burns/AP)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with US and NATO troops in Bulgaria on Friday, where he told the troops that they are creating “trust” by training alongside one another.

“You can’t surge trust at the eleventh hour; trust is something you have to work on every day. And from what I’ve heard, it’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re building trust with, amongst, with our allies, and you’re learning more about each other, and I think that’s just fantastic,” Austin said.

The US troops that are in Bulgaria are part of the US troop deployment to reinforce the United States' commitment to the NATO alliance and to reinforce the Eastern flank. 

Reporters traveling with Austin conducted a brief interview with an Army major who is on deployment in Bulgaria from his home base in Rosenberg, Germany. 

“Our mission here with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment is to reinforce our NATO allies in the southeastern flank of NATO and also to train with them in order to assure our allies of US commitment to NATO,” Maj. Ryan Mannina said. 

The focus of the US troop deployment there is to partner with Bulgarian land forces, Mannina said. The US troops are there to be a part of “NATO’s effort to stand up a multinational battle group here in Bulgaria,” he added.

Mannina said the soldiers there are “anxious” but “understand the strategic relevance of our mission.”

“We're very, we're very aware and attuned to the fact that there's a war going on only a few hundred miles from us and, and we, but I think the soldiers are also excited to be a part of something really important here and to understand the strategic relevance of our mission and assuring our allies and building combat credible forces on behalf of NATO,” Mannina said.

1:32 p.m. ET, March 18, 2022

Zelensky: 130 people have been rescued from bombed Mariupol theater, but hundreds still under the rubble 

From CNN's Alex Hardie and Chris Liakos

Debris is seen after a theater was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 17.
Debris is seen after a theater was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 17. (Azov Battalion/AP)

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.

Earlier on Friday, officials from the Donetsk region and Kyiv said they had no further update on how many people had survived the attack. On Thursday, Ukraine’s human rights commissioner Liudmyla Denisova said there was no update on figures released, which reported 130 people rescued from a total of 1,300 people believed to have been sheltering in the building.

Zelensky also warned that it will be Western leaders’ moral defeat if Ukraine does not receive advanced weapons.

“We still have no missile defense. We do not have enough fighter planes,” Zelensky said.

“We shall call even louder on certain Western leaders and remind them that this will be their moral defeat if Ukraine does not receive the advanced weapons that will save the lives of thousands of our people,” Zelensky continued.

“Russian missiles are not going to be defeated by certain hunting guns that they are trying to sell us sometimes,” he said.

On Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the European Union, Zelensky said, “We will become a full member of the EU and every civil servant is working towards this 24/7.”