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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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.

5:10 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Ireland expecting 40,000 Ukrainian refugees by the end of April, deputy prime minister says

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Alex Hardie

Deputy Irish Prime Minister (Tanaiste) Leo Varadkar leaves a Cabinet meeting, Tuesday March 22.
Deputy Irish Prime Minister (Tanaiste) Leo Varadkar leaves a Cabinet meeting, Tuesday March 22. (Niall Carson/PA/Reuters)

Deputy Irish Prime Minister (Tanaiste) Leo Varadkar said Tuesday that he expects 40,000 Ukrainian refugees to be in Ireland by the end of April.

While speaking in the Irish parliament, Varadkar said that as of Tuesday morning, more than 10,000 Ukrainians had arrived in the country and registered for international protection.

Varadkar said that he expects that number to rise to 20,000 by the end of March, adding that it was “reasonable to assume” that figure could hit 40,000 by the end of April. 

“What we are seeing in the course of a few weeks is effectively a one percent increase in our population, only in the course of a few weeks, and that’s going to have serious impacts on education, on health care, on housing, on social protection, on public finances, even on things like greenhouse gas emissions. Absolutely all our calculations change when your population increases by 1 or 2 percent in the course of a few weeks,” Varadkar said.
3:14 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

French carmaker Renault announces 3-day return to production in Moscow

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Anaëlle Jonah

French carmaker Renault resumed production at its Moscow factory on Monday. However, the return will last only three days, the group’s spokesperson Rie Yamane confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.

“Renault Russia has confirmed the restart [of production] on Monday but only for three days,” Yamane said. She declined to provide more details when CNN asked why the company is restarting its production for three days.  

On Feb. 28, Renault halted production following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, CNN’s French affiliate BFMTV reported.

Russia was a key piece in Renault’s global empire before the war broke out. With 482,264 cars sold in 2021, Russia was the second most important market for Renault, ranking only behind the carmaker’s home base in France in terms of sales volume, according to the group’s 2021 sales results.

Renault owns major Russian car manufacturer AvtoVAZ, whose brand Lada represented nearly 21% of the Russian market in 2021. Lada Vesta and Lada Granta were the two most popular car models in Russia in 2021, according to Renault Group’s 2021 financial results.

Renault's share price has dropped by more than 26% since Russia launched the invasion on February 24, according to data from the Paris stock exchange.

The French state is the biggest single shareholder of Renault, holding 15.01% of the share at the end of 2020, according to data from the group.  

The French Finance Ministry declined CNN’s request for a comment on Renault resuming car production in Moscow.

3:04 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

FBI says hackers scanned networks of US energy firms ahead of Biden's Russia cyberattack warning

From CNN's Sean Lyngaas

Hackers associated with Russian internet addresses have been scanning the networks of five US energy companies in a possible prelude to hacking attempts, the FBI said in a March 18 advisory to US businesses obtained by CNN. 

The FBI issued the notice days before US President Joe Biden publicly warned that Kremlin-linked hackers could target US organizations as the Russian military continues to suffer heavy losses in Ukraine and as Western sanctions on the Kremlin begin to bite. 

Deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger said during Monday's White House briefing that Russia had been conducting "preparatory activity" for cyber attacks, which she said could include scanning websites and hunting for software vulnerabilities."

There are at least 18 US companies in other sectors, such as defense and financial services, that were subjected to the scanning, the FBI said.

There are no confirmed breaches related to the scanning, but the FBI advisory is the latest in a chorus of warnings from US officials to critical infrastructure operators to be on alert for potential Russian hacking. “The magnitude of Russia's cyber capacity is fairly consequential and it's coming,” Biden told business executives on Monday. 

The Russia-based Internet Protocol addresses, or data that identifies a computer, are “believed to be associated with cyber actors who previously conducted destructive cyber activity against foreign critical infrastructure,” the FBI said in its advisory.

“This scanning activity has increased since the start of the Russia/Ukraine conflict, leading to a greater possibility of future intrusions,” the FBI memo states.

CBS News first reported on the FBI advisory.  

Read the full story here:

2:51 p.m. ET, March 22, 2022

Biden administration has not seen China provide weapons to Russia since Xi-Biden call

From CNN's Betsy Klein

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the administration has not seen China provide military equipment to Russia since President Joe Biden spoke with China’s President Xi Jinping last Friday. 

“I can't make predictions going forward. What I can tell you is we have not seen since those meetings or since the President's conversation with Xi, the provision of military equipment by China to Russia, but of course, this is something we are monitoring closely,” Sullivan told reporters Tuesday.

He continued: “We will continue to monitor it. And the President made clear to President Xi the implications and consequences of any such provision of equipment and they very well understand.”

Russia has requested military support and economic assistance support from China, two US officials told CNN last week. China has conveyed some openness to offering help to Russia, according to a US diplomatic cable to allies. Both Russia and Beijing have denied that there have been any such requests. 

On Friday, Biden sought to dissuade Xi from assisting Russia, warning his Chinese counterpart during a 110-minute long video call of the "implications and consequences" for Beijing if it were to provide material support to Moscow.