March 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Travis Caldwell, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Sana Noor Haq, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Kathryn Snowdon and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, March 23, 2022
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7:30 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Zelensky asks Italy to strengthen sanctions against Russia

From CNN’s Hande Atay Alam

(Italian Parliament)
(Italian Parliament)

Ukrainian President Zelensky said he has asked Italy "to strengthen sanctions against Russia and regime" during an address that was posted on the Ukrainian government’s Facebook page on Tuesday.

Zelensky said he has asked "to hit all the Russians that are responsible for this war, the war against us. To hit them on their property, real estate, yacht, and banks accounts ... Their habit to make money on war and then continue to live in Europe where there is peace and safety."

"I am sure there will be new sanctions and I am grateful to Italy for support," Zelensky added.

8:47 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

CNN reports from the Ukraine-Poland border as women and children try to flee

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

(CNN)
(CNN)

As midnight approached in Ukraine, refugees continued to seek safety in neighboring countries.

CNN’s Melissa Bell reported live from Medyka on Ukraine's border with Poland, noting that the refugees — primarily women and children — come carrying very little, aside from hope.

“The couple of suitcases that they can carry, often also a pet. Whatever they've been able to grab as they leave,” said Bell, of the arriving refugees.

Meanwhile, at the border crossing, Poland is doing its best to welcome those seeking safety.

“There's an area for their pets to be fed as they arrive. Tents have been set up all along this walkway where they arrive to try to give them comfort, to try to give the children a bit of candy, a bit of stuffed toy, something to say welcome to Poland. Extraordinary scenes,” described Bell.

Bell reported that more than 2.1 million people have crossed the border where she is stationed, nearly 60% of all total Ukrainian refugees.

“It is on this country that that tremendous strain of welcoming an extraordinarily vulnerable group of people, since, by definition, we're talking about women with their small children that are arriving with absolutely nothing," she said.

6:37 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Key things to know about hypersonic missiles fired by Russia at Ukraine

From CNN's Brad Lendon

A Russian Air Force MiG-31K jet carries a high-precision hypersonic aero-ballistic missile Kh-47M2 Kinzhal during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow in this May 9, 2018 ima
A Russian Air Force MiG-31K jet carries a high-precision hypersonic aero-ballistic missile Kh-47M2 Kinzhal during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow in this May 9, 2018 ima (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Russia has used hypersonic missiles in its invasion of Ukraine, US President Joe Biden confirmed Monday.

"And if you'll notice, (Russia has) just launched the hypersonic missile, because it's the only thing that they can get through with absolute certainty," Biden said. "It's a consequential weapon ... it's almost impossible to stop it. There's a reason they're using it."

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a news briefing on Tuesday that Russian forces used hypersonic missiles “at least in one instance,” that the US is aware of. Russian forces used the hypersonic missile “against a fixed building,” at a “relatively close range,” Kirby said.

Despite the Biden's comments, British intelligence and even the US President's own defense secretary have downplayed Russia's use of its air-launched Kinzhal missiles.

"I would not see it as a game changer," Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin told CBS' "Face the Nation."

And the UK Defense Ministry said the Kinzhal missile is really just an air-launched version of the Iskander short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), which Russia has used repeatedly in its invasion of Ukraine.

Why the fear and hype about hypersonic missiles? First, it's important to understand the term.

Essentially, all missiles are hypersonic — which means they travel at least five times the speed of sound. Almost any warhead released from a rocket miles in the atmosphere will reach this speed heading to its target. It is not a new technology.

What military powers — including Russia, China, the United States and North Korea -- are working on now is a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). An HGV is a highly maneuverable payload that can theoretically fly at hypersonic speed while adjusting course and altitude to fly under radar detection and around missile defenses.

An HGV is the weapon that's almost impossible to stop. And Russia is thought to have an HGV in its arsenal, the Avangard system, which Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 called "practically invulnerable" to Western air defenses.

But the Kinzhal, as a variant of the Iskander SRBM, is not an HGV. While it does have limited maneuverability like the Iskander, its main advantage is that it can be launched from MiG-31 fighter jets, giving it a longer range and the ability to attack from multiple directions, according to a report last year from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The MiG-31K can strike from unpredictable directions and could avoid interception attempts altogether. The flying carrier vehicle might also be more survivable than the road-mobile Iskander system," the report said.

The same report also noted that the ground-launched Iskander proved vulnerable to missile defense systems during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, during which Azeri forces intercepted an Armenian Iskander.

"This suggests that claims of the Kinzhal's invulnerability to missile defense systems may also be somewhat exaggerated," the report said.

Read more here.

5:04 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

US aware of Russia using hypersonic missiles "at least in one instance," Pentagon says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Russian forces used hypersonic missiles “at least in one instance,” that the US is aware of, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a news briefing on Tuesday.

Russian forces used the hypersonic missile “against a fixed building,” at a “relatively close range,” Kirby said.

“It’s hard to know what exactly the justification was for that, but it could very well be tied to inventory problems and performance problems that they’re having with respect to precision guided munitions, so we’ll just have to see where that goes,” Kirby said.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Sunday that he does not view “the use of this type of weapon as some sort of game changer here,” Kirby added.

“It is not exactly clear what their intentions were,” Kirby said.

CNN previously reported that Russia had used a hypersonic missile in the conflict in Ukraine.

Read more about hypersonic missile's here.

4:48 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Pentagon: Ukraine's airspace remains "contested," partially because "the Ukrainians are making it that way"

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

The airspace over Ukraine remains “contested,” as the Russian invasion of the country is in its fourth week of conflict, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Monday.

The airspace is contested partially because “the Ukrainians are making it that way.”

Ukrainians still have fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, Kirby said.

Russian forces are dominant in some areas of the airspace, he added.

“It's contested because the Ukrainians are making it that way, and they’re being, they’re being very smart about how they’re marshaling and using their air defense resources which includes fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, which they continue to fly,” Kirby said.

5:56 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

French energy giant TotalEnergies will stop buying Russian oil by end of year

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Anaëlle Jonah

TotalEnergies headquarters is seen near Paris, France on February 10.
TotalEnergies headquarters is seen near Paris, France on February 10. (Chesnot/Getty Images)

French energy giant TotalEnergies said Tuesday it would stop buying Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022 at the latest, according to a news release from the company.

“Given the worsening situation in Ukraine and the existence of alternative sources of supply for Europe, TotalEnergies has unilaterally decided not to enter into or renew any contracts for the purchase of Russian oil and oil products, in order to stop all purchases of Russian oil or oil products as soon as possible and by the end of 2022 at the latest,” the statement said.

The company however cautioned that it will continue to purchase natural gas from Russia.  

“Unlike oil supply, it appears that Europe's gas logistics capacities make it difficult to do without Russian gas in the next two to three years without affecting the continent's energy supply,” Total said in the statement.

The company said it will mobilize oil products from other places, especially diesel produced by the Satorp refinery in Saudi Arabia.

TotalEnergies’s contracts for Russian oil account for 12% of Russia’s diesel imports to the European Union in 2021, according to the statement.

More on the decision: The company reiterated that it doesn’t operate any oil or gas fields or liquified natural gas (LNG) plants in Russia and is moving towards a gradual suspension of its activities in Russia, according to the statement. Among the 11 employees sent to various Russian oil and gas companies where TotalEnergies is a minority shareholder, three remain in the country.

It also announced that it will stop funding the Arctic LNG 2 project, located in Russia’s Siberian coast, and will also put its commercial developments in the fields of batteries and lubricants in Russia on hold.

6:12 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

France says there is no agreement in sight for a ceasefire in Ukraine

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu

French President Emmanuel Macron stands outside of the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on March 21.
French President Emmanuel Macron stands outside of the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on March 21. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/Reuters)

There is no agreement in sight for a ceasefire in Ukraine, the Élysée Palace said in a statement after French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts separately on Tuesday.

“For the time being there is no agreement, but the President [Macron] remains convinced of the need to continue his efforts,” the statement read. 

“There is no other way out than a ceasefire and good faith negotiations between Russia and Ukraine,” it added.

The call between Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin lasted for one hour, according to the Élysée Palace.

Since the war first broke out on February 24, Macron has been keeping a line of communication open with both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Including the calls today, Macron has spoken with Putin eight times and with Zelensky 17 times since the beginning of Russia’s invasion last month, according to CNN's calculation.

6:39 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Pentagon: US has "seen indications" Ukrainians are "going a bit more on the offense"

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

The US has “seen indications that the Ukrainians are going a bit more on the offense now,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

In the south near Kherson, Ukrainians have “tried to regain territory,” Kirby added.

“They have been defending very smartly, very nimbly, very creatively, in places that they believe are the right places to defend, and we have seen them now, in places particularly in the south near Kherson, they have tried to regain territory,” Kirby said.

Here's a look at where Russian forces have occupied Ukrainian territory:

4:57 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Putin spokesperson refuses to rule out use of nuclear weapons if Russia faced an "existential threat"

From CNN's Luke McGee

Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief spokesperson speaks with CNN on Tuesday March 22.
Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief spokesperson speaks with CNN on Tuesday March 22. (CNN)

Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief spokesperson has conceded that Russia has yet

to achieve any of its military goals in Ukraine and refused to deny that Moscow could resort to the use of nuclear weapons.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday, Dmitry Peskov repeatedly refused to rule out that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons against what Moscow saw as an "existential threat." When asked under what conditions Putin would use Russia's nuclear capability, Peskov replied, "if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be."

When asked what Putin thought he had achieved in Ukraine so far, Peskov answered, "Well, first of all, not yet. He hasn't achieved yet."

The spokesperson also claimed that the "special military operation" — the Kremlin's official euphemism for Russia's invasion in Ukraine — was "going on strictly in accordance with the plans and the purposes that were established before hand."

Read more here.