March 20, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Steve George, Ben Church, Luke McGee, Ed Upright, Maureen Chowdhury, Joe Ruiz, Mike Hayes and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, March 21, 2022
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7:26 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

One killed following explosions in Kyiv

From CNN's Karen Smith

One person has been killed following explosions in Kyiv’s Podilskyi district, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said late Sunday.

Several explosions were heard in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, according to CNN’s team on the ground.

The explosions hit the Ukrainian capital’s Podil district, including residential and business areas, Klitschko said. The Podil neighborhood is part of the city’s larger Podilskyi District.

The blasts hit “some houses and on the territory of one of the shopping centers. Rescuers, paramedics and police are already on scene,” Klitschko said via Telegram.

Also via Telegram, Klitschko said rescuers are extinguishing a large fire in one of the shopping centers in the Podilskyi district of the capital. He added medical, rescue and police services are on site.

Earlier Sunday, massive anti-aircraft fire erupted above Kyiv. CNN saw anti-aircraft cannons firing into the night sky for several minutes in what appeared to be at least two anti-aircraft rockets that were also fired into the air.

It’s not clear what the Ukrainians were firing at, but the CNN crew saw an illuminated dot traverse the sky over the capital, which may have been an aircraft.

5:49 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Nearly half of Chernobyl nuclear plant staff was able to rotate, UN nuclear watchdog says

From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan

Nearly half of Chernobyl's nuclear plant staff were able to rotate and return to their homes, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Sunday.

Those who were able to leave the plant had been working for nearly four weeks, according to the IAEA.

IAEA Director Gen. Rafael Grossi tweeted that he welcomed news of the staff's rotation, emphasizing “they deserve our full respect and admiration for having worked in these extremely difficult circumstances. They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon.”

Grossi also said he is “continuing consultations with a view to agree on a framework for the delivery of IAEA assistance. The initiative aims to ensure safety and security at Ukraine’s nuclear sites.”

On March 15, Ukraine informed the UN's nuclear watchdog the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had reconnected to the national electricity grid after losing on-site power. 

As of Monday, the site had been receiving all required power from the repaired line, enabling the staff to switch off the emergency diesel generators they were relying on since March 9, it said in a statement.

Since Russian troops took control of the nuclear plant on February 24, the plant's 211 technical personnel and guards had not been able to leave, meaning they had been "in effect living there for the past three weeks," according to the watchdog. 

The Ukrainian regulator told the IAEA the information it received regarding Chernobyl was “controlled by the Russian military forces” and consequently it could not “always provide detailed answers to all” questions posed.

5:30 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Russian Ministry of Defense calls on Mariupol officials to surrender, Russian state media says

From CNN’s Fred Pleitgen, Emmet Lyons, Mariya Knight

The Russian Ministry of Defense has called on Mariupol local authorities to surrender the city to Russian forces, according to Russian state media outlet, RIA Novosti.

The news agency attributed its reporting to comments made by the head of the National Center for Defense Management of the Russian Federation, Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev.

“We appeal to the odious bandits, who are responsible for hundreds of lives of innocent people, and now call themselves representatives of the official local authorities, of this unique city Mariupol. We are aware that in the current situation little depends on you, since you are under the full control of nationalist battalions, but we very much hope that you, including the mayor of the city, have at least something human in you left, at least a sense of compassion for the civilians entrusted to you," Mizintsev said, according to RIA Novosti.

The Mariupol City Council said Saturday residents are being taken to Russia against their will by Russian forces.

"Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents have been taken to Russian territory," the city said in a statement. "The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhny district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing."

Captured Mariupol residents were taken to camps where Russian forces checked their phones and documents, then redirected some of the residents to remote cities in Russia, the statement said, adding the "fate of the others is unknown."

In calling on city officials to surrender, RIA Novosti quoted Mizintsev, saying: "It is you who now have the right to a historic choice – either you are with your people, or you are with bandits. Otherwise the military tribunal that awaits you is only a minor thing that you have already deserved because of the despicable attitude towards your own citizens, as well as the terrible crimes and provocations already arranged by you."

RIA went on to report the Colonel-General said nearly 60,000 residents of Mariupol “found themselves in Russia in complete safety.”

"What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people," said Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko. "It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century people can be forcibly taken to another country.”
5:12 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Senior Russian naval officer killed near Mariupol, Russian officials say

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

A deputy commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, Captain of the First Rank Andrei Paliy, was killed during fighting in the region of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, two senior Russian officials said.

In a statement on Telegram, Mikhail Razvozhaev, the governor of Sevastopol, said, "Andrei Nikolaevich chose to defend his homeland as his life's work and died for our peaceful future. In 1993, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to Ukraine, remained loyal to Russia by leaving for [Russia's] Northern Fleet."

Sevastopol is the headquarters for Russia's Black Sea Fleet. The port city is in Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.

Ekaterina Altabaeva, a Russian senator from Sevastopol, said on VK.com, a popular Russian social network, that the city had "suffered a heavy, irreparable loss."

According to Altabaeva, Paliy graduated from the Kyiv Higher Naval Political School -- a school for political officers of the Soviet navy -- and took part in Russia's 2008 war against Georgia.

"I knew Andrei Nikolaevich personally. An officer with a capital O, a courageous defender of our Motherland, devoted to the oath and to the Navy," she said. "Andrei Nikolaevich loved Sevastopol with all his heart. His whole life was dedicated to the Hero City."

Thousands of Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Russia's invasion began nearly one month ago, US and NATO officials told CNN this week, and Russia is now struggling to resupply those forces as it faces sagging troop morale and fierce Ukrainian resistance.

US and allied intelligence assessments vary widely as to exactly how many Russian forces have been killed to date, sources familiar with the intelligence tell CNN. But even the lowest estimates are in the thousands.

One such assessment found approximately 7,000 Russian troops have been killed so far, said one of the sources. But that figure, first reported by The New York Times, is on the higher end of US estimates, which vary because the US and its allies have no precise way of counting casualties. Some estimates place the number of Russian troops killed in Ukraine at about 3,000, while others suggest more than 10,000 have died.

5:31 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

More than 7,200 people evacuate Mariupol using four humanitarian corridors Sunday, Ukraine Deputy PM says

From CNN's Mariya Knight in Atlanta

A mother embraces her son after he escaped Mariupol and arrived at the train station in Lviv on Sunday, March 20.
A mother embraces her son after he escaped Mariupol and arrived at the train station in Lviv on Sunday, March 20. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

Four of the seven established humanitarian corridors out of the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol were operational on Sunday, said Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

In total, almost 7,295 people were evacuated during the day, Vereshchuk said in a video address. Among them, 3,900 people were evacuated from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia by buses and private transport.

“Due to the violation of the ceasefire, the evacuation from Borodyanka to Bila Tserkva failed for the second day in a row, and it was not possible to deliver humanitarian aid to the village of Mala Rohan. Communication with six people who were supposed to deliver aid to the city of Vovchansk was lost,” Vereshchuk said.

Russia's Defense Ministry also released a statement Sunday, claiming to have evacuated more than 330,000 people -- including 68,963 children -- since the invasion's beginning.

The United Nations said within the invasion's first week, more than one million Ukrainian refugees fled to neighboring countries.

3:59 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

It's 10 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

A neighbor stands amid the destruction caused by a bomb in the Satoya neighborhood in Kyiv on Sunday, March 20.
A neighbor stands amid the destruction caused by a bomb in the Satoya neighborhood in Kyiv on Sunday, March 20. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

The Russian military claimed on Sunday that it had launched a series of strikes on military targets in Ukraine employing hypersonic and cruise missiles on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

US officials have also confirmed to CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against Ukraine last week, the first known use of such missiles in combat.

It's late Sunday night in Kyiv. Here are more of the headlines from Sunday in the Russia-Ukraine conflict:

  • Zelensky: "I'm ready for negotiations" with Putin, but if they fail, it could mean "a third World War": Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday he is ready to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but warned that if any negotiation attempts fail, it could mean the fight between the two countries would lead to "a third World War." “I’m ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an exclusive interview Sunday morning.
  • More than 900 civilians killed in Ukraine, UN says: At least 902 civilians have been killed and 1,459 injured since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said Sunday. The OHCHR added that most of the casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes. In a statement, the UN body detailed the 902 deaths as “179 men, 134 women, 11 girls, and 25 boys, as well as 39 children and 514 adults whose sex is yet unknown.”
  • Mariupol struggles to learn more about art school bombing: An advisor to Mariupol’s mayor said in an update on the art school that was bombed by Russian forces in the last hours that city officials are struggling to learn more about how many people were hiding in the school that was acting as a shelter. Petro Andrushenko wrote on social media: “So far, there is no exact operational data on how many people were hiding in the shelter or the number of casualties. I expect we will have it later today. But the situation is difficult and there is nowhere to get the data from.” An earlier estimate from the city council put the number sheltering in the school building at 400.
  • White House says Biden has "no plans" to visit Ukraine this week: White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there are “no plans,” for US President Joe Biden to travel to Ukraine this week as he heads to Europe for snap emergency summits.
  • US and NATO officials struggle to decipher the status of peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine: US and NATO officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has not backed off his original demands in peace talks with Ukraine and there is a heavy dose of skepticism in western capitals about how credible Moscow’s engagement truly is – even as the status of those negotiations remains difficult to decipher, according to multiple sources briefed on the situation.
2:41 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Turkish foreign minister: Turkey wants Ukraine's independence recognized and is working hard to achieve peace

From CNN's Talia Kayali in Atlanta

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Lviv on March 17.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Lviv on March 17. (Alona Nikolayevych/Ukrinform/NurPhoto/AP)

Turkey wants to see Ukraine’s independence recognized and is working hard to achieve peace, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said during a party gathering in Antalya on Sunday.

While Turkey has strong ties to both Ukraine and Russia, the war between two large neighbors of Turkey is affecting the country as well as the rest of the world, he said. 

“We strongly objected the annexation of Crimea in 2014. If the world had given the proper response to Crimea annexation, then, we wouldn’t be in this situation today” Çavuşoğlu added. 

He believes both sides are close to an agreement in fundamental areas. Ukraine’s independence is among the conditions discussed which Turkey wants it to be guaranteed. Along with UN Security Council and Germany, Turkey wants to be guarantors for Ukraine’s independence. 

Ibrahim Kalin, the presidential spokesperson, posted updates on his Twitter page indicating Turkey is continuing their efforts to end the war in Ukraine. He took parts of his interview with Al Jazeera and posted this update: “The humanitarian toll is becoming heavier by the day. There will be no winners in this war. A peace deal is not impossible.” 

Kalin added: "The most difficult conditions to agree are Russia’s demand of recognition of Crimea annexation under Russia and also recognition of so-called independence of two republics in Donbas region. They are main issues and I think they are most difficult to reach an agreement on, Kalin added. The other four topics in discussion are Ukraine’s neutrality, disarmament and security guarantees for Ukraine, and work so-called de-Nazification”. 

Both officials emphasized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuous communications with both Russian and Ukrainian officials in this process to achieve an end to the war.

Turkey hosted an international meeting last week, including a meeting between Ukrainian and Russian Foreign Ministers. 

1:58 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Here's a look at daily life for Ukrainians who remain in Lviv

From CNN's Erica S. Lee

As recent as last Friday, Russia launched missile strikes near an airport in Lviv, a strategic Ukrainian city not far from the Polish border that had until now largely been spared from the relentless bombardment witnessed across the rest of Ukraine during the war.

There are over 200,000 internally displaced people now in Lviv, a city of just over 700,000 people.

As Russia's invasion spreads further west of the city, these images capture moments of daily life in Lviv.

A girl receives communion during a church service at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church on Sunday, March 20 in Lviv, Ukraine. The city has served as a stopover and shelter for the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.
A girl receives communion during a church service at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church on Sunday, March 20 in Lviv, Ukraine. The city has served as a stopover and shelter for the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

A woman prays during a church service at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church in Lviv on Sunday.
A woman prays during a church service at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church in Lviv on Sunday. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

Children play by the monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in Lviv on Sunday.
Children play by the monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in Lviv on Sunday. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images

Men play chess on a bench in the boulevard leading to the Lviv Opera House on March 20.
Men play chess on a bench in the boulevard leading to the Lviv Opera House on March 20. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

People walk by a monument covered by protective screen in case of shelling on Sunday in Lviv.
People walk by a monument covered by protective screen in case of shelling on Sunday in Lviv. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

A man and a woman wrapped in the Ukrainian national flag walk the street on March 20 in Lviv.
A man and a woman wrapped in the Ukrainian national flag walk the street on March 20 in Lviv. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

2:07 p.m. ET, March 20, 2022

Estonia's prime minister: "Putin must not win this war"

From CNN’s Claudia Dominguez

Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas takes part in a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on March 9.
Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas takes part in a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on March 9. (Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images)

“Putin must not win this war,” Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, adding that it was “heartbreaking” to see what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

“We are trying to do everything what we can to support and help Ukraine to fight this war. Putin must not win this war,” Kallas said on "State of the Union." 

Kallas, who will be attending the upcoming NATO summit, said that NATO’s strategy should focus on ending the war by using “smart containment”, meaning that NATO should move from a “deterrence posture” to a secure “defense posture,” raising NATO nations’ contribution to strengthen each nation’s defense and ultimately NATO as a whole and focusing on cooperation. 

“There are some capabilities that are too expensive for any individual state, but if we do them together here in Europe to protect our territories, we are stronger,” she said, nations should move to isolate Russia “at all the political levels that is possible.”

When asked about Poland’s proposal to send peacekeepers to Ukraine, Kallas said that first peace must be achieved, and that Russia is not showing any intentions of achieving it. 

“We can only have a peacekeeping mission if we have peace, but you know, if you look at what is happening in Ukraine, peace is nothing that we see there. It's a war that is going on, and I don't see that Russia has any intention of doing anything to achieve peace. So first we should have peace, then, to keep it,” she said. “Sometimes in order to achieve peace, we have to have the willingness to use military power.” 

Kallas said they do not see the possibility of a third World War in Europe and that the effort should be on ending this war.

Kallas also compared deportations happening in Mariupol to what Russia did in the 1940s where Estonians were put in “cattle cars” sent to Siberia. 

She said that Putin’s is feeding into the right-wing narrative in Europe and the US by creating a refugee crisis.

“He is creating this huge migration pressure to Europe and what we see in different countries, we also see that the Far Right now picking up the tone” and not helping refugees coming from Ukraine, she added. 

“The enemy is Russia and not the refugees,” Kallas said.