March 19, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Luke McGee, Jeevan Ravindran, Joe Ruiz, Adrienne Vogt and Emma Tucker, CNN

Updated 12:05 a.m. ET, March 20, 2022
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8:17 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022

Hypersonic Kinzhal missiles destroyed military warehouse in western Ukraine, Russian Ministry of Defense says

Russia's Ministry of Defense said Saturday powerful hypersonic "Kinzhal" missiles destroyed a military ammunitions warehouse in western Ukraine on Friday.

"On March 18, the Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse of missiles and aviation ammunition of Ukrainian troops in the village of Delyatin, Ivano-Frankivsk region," the ministry said. 

CNN is unable to independently verify this claim. 

The ministry has previously made claims that the highly maneuverable missile, which travels faster than the speed of sound, is unmatched for potency when coupled with its MiG-31 fighter jets.

In his 2018 annual address to Russia's parliament, President Vladimir Putin said Russia had developed an "invincible" missile that could deliver a warhead at hypersonic speed.

7:31 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022

Rescue operations continue in Mykolaiv where dozens reported killed in strike on Ukrainian barracks

From CNN's Abby Baggini, Samson Desta and Jonny Hallam and Yulia Kesaieva 

Soldiers conduct search efforts at the scene of a missile strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.
Soldiers conduct search efforts at the scene of a missile strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. (Niclas Hammarström/Expressen)

Rescue operations were still underway in Mykolaiv Saturday morning at the scene of a missile strike on a barracks housing soldiers, regional boss Vitalli Kim said. 

Dozens of troops are reported to have been killed in the attack by Russian forces, according to journalists from CNN Swedish affiliate Expressen who were at the scene.

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 barracks. 

Speaking on his Telegram channel Saturday, Kim said he was not yet able to provide information on fatalities, as he was waiting for official data.  

Rescuers at the scene have been using shovels and their bare hands to free survivors from the rubble of the buildings. 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, “of the approximately 200 who were there, I would guess about 90% 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 attacks. 

It is seen as a strategic target for Russian land forces in any move to capture Ukraine's third-largest city, Odesa, which lies further west along the coast. 

8:27 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022

Norway's prime minister says four US soldiers have died in a plane crash

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre speaks during a press conference in Brussels, Belgium on February 23.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre speaks during a press conference in Brussels, Belgium on February 23. (Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said Saturday that four US soldiers have died in a plane crash. 

"It is with great sadness we have received the message that four American soldiers died in a plane crash last night," he said on his official Twitter account

"The soldiers participated in the NATO exercise Cold Response. Our deepest sympathies go to the soldiers' families, relatives and fellow soldiers in their unit," he added. 

According to NATO: "Cold Response 2022 is a long-planned and regular exercise, which Norway hosts biannually. This year’s exercise was announced over eight months ago. It is not linked to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, which NATO is responding to with preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory measures."

6:00 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022

Russia continues to make "incremental gains" in Ukraine's south, has used "savage techniques," US Defense Secretary says

From CNN's Radina Gigova in Atlanta

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Bulgaria's Prime Minister Kiril Petkov in Sofia, Bulgaria on March 19.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Bulgaria's Prime Minister Kiril Petkov in Sofia, Bulgaria on March 19. (Vassil Donev/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Russia continues to make "incremental gains" in Ukraine's south and has used "brutal, savage techniques'' in the way it has targeted civilians, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Saturday.

"In terms of Russians' progress in the south, I would say that they continue to make incremental gains. I would also say that they've used some brutal, savage techniques in terms of the way that they've been targeting civilian populations," Austin said during a joint press conference with Bulgaria's Prime Minister Kiril Petkov in Sofia. 

"And again, we would hope that they [Russia] would choose a different path," Austin added. The amount of pain that the civilians have endured "has been hard to watch," he said. 

Austin also said Europe faces its "largest security challenge in generations," and that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s "war of choice" against Ukraine has been "tragic."

"Russia’s aggression has galvanized the Ukrainian people, NATO, and the free world," Austin said. "Our commitment to Article 5 is ironclad."

"Improving Bulgaria’s military readiness and NATO interoperability is even more vital today," Austin said, adding "the United States will continue to stand strong with Bulgaria and our other NATO Allies."

Austin condemned Russia’s "reckless and ruthless aggression against a peaceful neighbor" and praised Bulgaria for helping Ukrainian civilians.

Austin has traveled to Bulgaria and Slovakia this week as part of a trip to bolster NATO allies.

More context: Troops have made progress in the south of the country using tactics "ripped from the Syria playbook," Mason Clark, lead Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told CNN Friday evening.

These tactics include "specific neighborhood-by-neighborhood targeting," less precise weapons that take a more brutal toll, and hitting civilian infrastructure, he said.

5:18 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022

Zelensky calls for negotiations on peace "without delay" in latest video message

From CNN's Radina Gigova

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)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for negotiations on peace "without delay" and warned that otherwise Russia's losses would be "huge." 

Speaking on Saturday, Zelensky said that "negotiations on peace, on security for us, for Ukraine -- meaningful, fair and without delay -- are the only chance for Russia to reduce the damage from its own mistakes," in his latest video message. 

"We have always insisted on negotiations. We have always offered dialogue, offered solutions for peace," he said. "And I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. It's time to meet. Time to talk. It is time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine."

"Otherwise, Russia's losses will be so huge, that several generations won't be enough to rebound," Zelensky added. 

5:13 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022

Putin tries to justify war on Ukraine at Moscow rally, but TV glitch cuts off broadcast

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea on March 18 in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea on March 18 in Moscow. (Alexander Vilf/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin laid out his justification for the invasion of Ukraine at a rally in Moscow on Friday, where his speech was abruptly cut off on the state TV broadcast in what the Kremlin described as a technical error.

Tens of thousands of people waved the Russian flag at the national stadium as they took part in celebrations commemorating the eighth year of Russia's annexation of Crimea -- which is deemed illegal by the Ukrainian government and not recognized in the West.

Speaking from a stage in front of a banner that read, "For a world without Nazism," Putin said Russia "will definitely implement all our plans" in Ukraine.

Read the full story here.

3:31 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022

UK Defense Ministry: Russia has been "surprised by the scale and ferocity" of Ukrainian resistance

From CNN's Radina Gigova

Civilians practice moving in groups at a military training exercise in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine on March 11.
Civilians practice moving in groups at a military training exercise in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine on March 11. (Alexey Furman/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Russia has so far been "surprised by the scale and ferocity" of Ukrainian resistance and has been "forced to change its operational approach," the UK Ministry of Defence said in its latest intelligence update on Saturday.

"The Kremlin has so far failed to achieve its original objectives" and "is now pursuing a strategy of attrition," the ministry said. "This is likely to involve the indiscriminate use of firepower resulting in increased civilian casualties, destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure, and intensify the humanitarian crisis."

Grip on media: Amid the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reinforced his control over the country's media, the ministry said. "The Kremlin is attempting to control the narrative, detract from operational problems and obscure high Russian casualty numbers from the Russian people," the ministry said.

3:28 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022

Analysis: Why the US has allowed so few Ukrainian refugees

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Refugees fleeing conflict make their way to the border crossing with Poland on March 9 in Krakovets, Ukraine. 
Refugees fleeing conflict make their way to the border crossing with Poland on March 9 in Krakovets, Ukraine.  (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia's invasion, with most going to neighboring Poland.

But only the smallest trickle — about 690 — have come to the United States as refugees since last October. That means essentially no Ukrainians of those 3 million who left since the war began have come to the US.

Why haven't more been allowed? It's a story of red tape and the broken immigration system, which the Biden administration, despite a desire to welcome refugees, has been unable to change.

"I will welcome the Ukrainian refugees," President Joe Biden said from the White House on March 11.

But it is not currently possible for American families to sponsor Ukrainian refugees. Multiple sources have told CNN the administration is discussing ways to help Ukrainian refugees join family members already living in the US.

That's something Poland's President has been pushing for; last week he asked Vice President Kamala Harris to speed up and simplify the procedures allowing Ukrainians with family in the US to come here.

It takes years to become a refugee in the US. The process takes so long because of the processing and screening time that's required — leaving limited, typically time-consuming options for Ukrainians seeking to enter the US.

Limit on refugees: Last May, Biden raised the cap on US refugees from the very low 15,000 set by the Trump administration to 62,500 in 2021, in line with the recent past, and then raised it again to 125,000.

But those caps are far below ones from the 1980s, when the US welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees each year.

Read the full analysis:

8:25 a.m. ET, March 19, 2022

Norway rescue teams see "major damage" to US military aircraft that appears to have crashed

From CNN's Jonny Hallam

A US military aircraft that appears to have crashed in northern Norway on Friday with four people aboard during NATO exercises has sustained "major damage," according to authorities in the country.

The MV-22B Osprey aircraft, assigned to the II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) US military unit, was on a training mission in Nordland County, northern Norway, on Friday, the Norwegian Armed Forces said.

On Saturday, Bent Arne Eilertsen, Nordland police chief of staff, told public broadcaster NRK: "The rescue helicopter has made observations and sees major damage to the aircraft.
"At 2:15 a.m. local time Saturday (9:15 p.m. Friday ET) ground crews approach the area where the aircraft is located.
"What we have been told is that it is an American plane with Americans on board."

According to NATO: "Cold Response 2022 is a long-planned and regular exercise, which Norway hosts biannually. This year’s exercise was announced over eight months ago. It is not linked to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, which NATO is responding to with preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory measures."

He said the rescue operation is being carried out in darkness and bad weather, meaning police and rescue crews must "enter the area on land" and use snowmobiles to reach the scene.

"Precipitation, avalanche danger, wind and darkness make such a rescue operation demanding," he said.

As of 2 a.m. Saturday (9 p.m. Friday ET), the Norwegian police have not had any contact with the aircraft, according to police.

Norway's Safety Investigation Authority and National Criminal Investigation Service will arrive in Bodø, north of the Arctic Circle, on Saturday to start their investigation at the town's airport. Due to the poor weather, they will most likely make their way to the crash site on Sunday, according to NRK.

The US Marine Corps thanked Norwegian authorities for the rescue operation, saying in a statement: "We are grateful for their efforts and will help them with this search and rescue in all possible ways.”