March 23, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Helen Regan, Seán Federico O'Murchú, George Ramsay, Hafsa Khalil, Adrienne Vogt and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, March 24, 2022
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10:15 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

First images emerging from Izyum show widespread destruction and bodies in the streets

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy, Celine Alkhaldi and Josh Pennington

Izyum, an eastern Ukrainian city about 72 miles (116 kilometers) southeast of Kharkiv, has been cut off from nearly all communications since intense battles between Russian and Ukrainian forces broke out there last week.

Now, the first videos and images have emerged from the city.

They show widespread destruction, charred and bombed-out buildings, and bodies left lying in the streets.

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the videos, which were uploaded to social media on Tuesday. The population of Izyum was around 54,000 people.

Some context: A senior US defense official told CNN earlier Tuesday that Ukrainian armed forces were fighting to knock the Russian military out of the town after the Russians moved in from Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

The first set of videos was uploaded to Instagram by a man walking around the town's central park. CNN is not naming or showing the individual out of concern for the person's safety.  

The park: Many of the trees that once lined the park's paths are splintered, their branches lying on the ground. 

"Take a look," the man said. "This is our park." 

The camera pans over to a charred building that once housed businesses and a restaurant.  

Then, an explosion is heard in the video. The war may have moved out of central Izyum, but its brutality is evident in the destruction it has left behind.  

"I'm just in shock; they are just killing everywhere," the man said. "There are corpses in the streets." 

As he walks deeper into the park, a dead body is seen in the street.

"Look, over there is another corpse," he said, pointing off the path. "And another one, and another one."  

The medical college: A second video clip from the man shows him near the Izyum Medical College dormitory. He walks by the burnt remains of a cafe.

"This is shrapnel from the exploded shells," he said, holding up the crude shards of metal. "They are very sharp and heavy. F***. Can you imagine how fast they fly at you?" 

Back near the park, another burnt building — which used to house a number of shops — is seen. Just across the street from it is a large crater.

"There is a three-meter crater here," the man said, as he pans the camera back toward the park where more splintered trees are seen.  

The playground: In northern Izyum, another video shows the effect military strikes have had on more residential areas. It is filmed from a playground, and begins with a view northeast toward an apartment building that has been destroyed in the middle — it has been reduced to rubble. 

As the camera pans to the east, the center section of another apartment complex is seen completely destroyed.  

"Well look, here is the entrance to my building," someone is heard saying in the video. 

The camera pans toward the southwest, to a church and another building.

"There is the school," the voice said, noting the building to the right of the church. "Nothing left."
9:35 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Russian diplomat: "You have to calculate all possible outcomes" when dealing with a nuclear power 

From CNN's Hira Humayun

Dmitry Polyanskiy, first deputy permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council on September 23, 2021 in New York City.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, first deputy permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council on September 23, 2021 in New York City. (John Minchillo/Pool/Getty Images/FILE)

A top Russian diplomat issued a warning to NATO countries Wednesday, saying they are dealing with a nuclear power and should not threaten Moscow.

"If Russia is provoked by NATO, if Russia is attacked by NATO I don't know ... we are a nuclear power, why not?" Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy said in an interview with Sky News.

When asked if that was a "legitimate thing" to say, Polyanskiy replied: "I don't think it's the right thing to be saying but it's not a right thing to threaten Russia and to try to interfere. So when you're dealing with a nuclear power of course you have to calculate all the possible outcomes of your behavior."

Some context: In an interview with CNN, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief spokesman previously refused to rule out that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons against what Moscow saw as an "existential threat."

War crimes: On Wednesday, the US government formally declared that members of the Russian armed forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cited “credible reports” of the deliberate targeting of civilians and indiscriminate attacks, including the destruction of apartment buildings, schools and hospitals.

But Russian diplomat Polyanskiy denied that Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine.

"Of course it's not up to me to assess — I'm not there, you're not there, you're looking at the videos, you're looking at many videos considered to be fake news," he told Sky News.

Fact Check: The US State Department specifically cited Russian attacks on a maternity hospital and a theater in Mariupol. The theater was marked with the Russian word for “children” in letters visible from the sky, the State Department said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensksy has also repeatedly accused Russia of war crimes.

When shown photos of wrecked apartment buildings on fire in Mariupol, Polyanskiy asked "how do you know it's Russian missiles?"

"It can easily come from Ukraine from the center of the city," Polyanskiy said, adding, without providing evidence, "they have their own missile launchers and lot of cases that I know are reported from Ukrainian missiles themselves."

Fact Check: Russia has repeatedly denied it is targeting civilian areas and infrastructure and has blamed Ukrainian forces for much of the destruction. But Ukrainian forces on the ground, journalists, and people who have fled Mariupol have described a city under constant bombardment from Russian strikes. Civilians still in the city have been without water, power and food, and describe bodies left in the street because it is too dangerous to collect them. Zelensky has said the sustained Russian attack on Mariupol is an "act of terror" that will be "remembered for centuries."

8:19 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Zelensky tells Russians: "Save your sons from the war"

From CNN's Hira Humayun

(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky)
(Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky)

In a video message posted to Facebook Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Russians and told them, "save your sons from the war."

Zelensky said Ukraine had never threatened the security of Russia, adding that Russian propagandists "lie about the war, which is paid for by your taxes."

Ukrainians, he said, are doing everything they can to bring peace back to their land.

"Not to yours — to our land. To our people. We are doing everything to end this war. And when we succeed, it will certainly happen, you will be sure of at least one thing: your children will no longer be sent to die on our land, on our territory," he said.

The Ukrainian President said Russia's original plan "already failed" in the first two days of the invasion but Russia is still "getting manpower from everywhere." 

"Equipment. Air bombs, missiles. Looking for mercenaries around the world. Any scum capable of shooting at civilians," Zelensky said.
"Russian troops destroy our cities. Kill civilians indiscriminately. Rape women. Abduct children. Shoot at refugees. Capture humanitarian convoys. They are engaged in looting. They burn museums, blow up schools and hospitals. The target for them is universities, residential neighborhoods ... Anything! Russian troops do not know the limits of evil."

Key talks: Zelensky referred to three upcoming meetings with world leaders — the NATO Summit, EU Summit and G7 Summit — and said politicians need to support freedom for Ukraine.

"At these three summits we will see who is a friend, who is a partner, and who betrayed us for money," he said.

The President repeated his requests for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying the Ukrainian sky has not been made safe from Russian bombs and Kyiv has not received aircraft, modern anti-missile weapons or tanks. 

7:51 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Russian journalist killed in Kyiv shelling incident

By Uliana Pavlova and Brian Stelter

Oksana Baulina speaks after a live broadcast in Moscow in 2017.
Oksana Baulina speaks after a live broadcast in Moscow in 2017. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

A Russian journalist working for the independent news site The Insider was killed in a shelling incident in Kyiv, the outlet said in a statement on Wednesday.

Oksana Baulina had been filming the shelling destruction in the capital’s Podilskyi District by Russian troops when she came under rocket fire. Another civilian died with her, The Insider’s statement said. Two people accompanying her were also wounded and hospitalized.

Baulina went to Ukraine as a correspondent and filed “several reports” from Lviv and Kyiv, The Insider said.

“The Insider expresses its deepest condolences to Oksana’s family and friends,” the outlet said in the statement. “We will continue to cover the war in Ukraine, including such Russian war crimes as indiscriminate shelling of residential areas where civilians and journalists are killed.”

The Insider’s statement did not say when Baulina was killed. But soon after it was released, colleagues took to Twitter to mourn her death.

Read more here.

7:22 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Zelensky calls for worldwide demonstrations supporting Ukraine as Russian invasion hits the one-month mark

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai

President Volodymyr Zelensky is calling for worldwide demonstrations in support of Ukraine as the Russian invasion reaches the one-month mark.

The Ukrainian President made the remarks in a speech posted to Facebook Wednesday evening, with the goal of seeing demonstrations begin Thursday.

It breaks my heart, hearts of all Ukrainians and every free person on the planet. That's why I asked you to stand against the war starting from March 24, exactly one month after the Russian invasion. From this day and after that, show your standing, come from your offices, your homes, your schools and universities, come in the name of peace, come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine,” Zelensky pleaded.

Zelensky said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a war against freedom and that Russia aims to defeat the freedom of all of Europe and the world.

To support freedom, to support life. Come to your squares, your streets, make yourselves visible and heard. Say that people matter, freedom matters, peace matters, Ukraine matters,” Zelensky said. 

Zelensky urged the world to unite against Russia’s invasion, saying, “the war of Russia is not only the war against Ukraine, its meaning is much wider.” 

Watch Zelensky's speech below:

7:31 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

It's after 1 a.m. on Thursday in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

CNN teams on the ground witnessed a barrage of outgoing fire late Wednesday evening that occurred in northwest Kyiv.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior US defense official told reporters that Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian forces back on the frontlines east of Kyiv.

Russian forces are about 55 kilometers (roughly 34 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the east, an increase of between 25 and 35 kilometers (roughly 15 to 22 miles) as compared to the same location yesterday, the official said.

To the northwest of Kyiv’s city center, Russian forces are “digging in, and they are establishing defensive positions,” the official said. They have not gotten any closer to Kyiv’s city center along this line, the official added. They remain 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the northwest.

Here's more of the most recent headlines from the Ukraine-Russia conflict:

  • Russian-proposed draft resolution on the Ukraine humanitarian situation fails to pass in UN Security Council: A Russian-proposed draft resolution on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine failed to pass in the United Nations Security Council Wednesday evening. Two countries voted in favor, zero countries voted against, and 13 countries, including the United States, abstained from the vote. Nine votes in favor were required for the resolution to pass. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke ahead of the vote, stating that Russia was once again trying to use the Security Council to “provide cover for its brutal actions.”
  • Biden arrives in Brussels for high-stakes crisis talks: US President Joe Biden has arrived in Brussels for a set of emergency summits meant to address Russia's war in Ukraine. Air Force One landed at the Brussels airport at 9:03 p.m. local time after a roughly seven-hour flight from Washington. Biden is expected to be greeted by Belgium's prime minister at the airport. He begins intensive talks with NATO, the G7 and the European Union starting Thursday.
  • NATO’s thoughts turn to chemical weapons on the eve of extraordinary summit: The day before NATO’S extraordinary summit takes place in Brussels, multiple sources have told CNN that a significant amount of time on Thursday will be spent discussing how the alliance should respond if Vladimir Putin uses chemical or biological weapons against Ukrainian citizens. Multiple officials, who spoke on the condition of total anonymity, agreed that while the official NATO position that it will not get directly involved in this war will remain, chemical weapons could be a game-changer as such an escalation would likely prompt the public in NATO nations to demand action.
  • Russia to expel US diplomats and label American employees "persona non grata": Moscow announced it will expel US diplomats from Russia, according to a statement issued by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday. A senior diplomat from the US diplomatic mission in Moscow was handed a note on Wednesday with a list of expelled American diplomatic employees declared “persona non grata,” according to the statement. Persona non grata literally means “an unwelcome person.”
  • Up to 15,000 Russians have been killed in ongoing Ukraine invasion, senior NATO military officials estimate: Up to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in one month in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, two senior NATO military officials said. The officials made the estimate during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday. The officials specified the range could be as low as 7,000 or as high as 15,000 in total Russian soldiers killed in the conflict so far. Their estimate is based on what Ukraine is telling them, what they know from Russia “intentionally or by mistake” and from “open source” information, one of the officials said.
  • WHO reports 64 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine: The World Health Organization has confirmed 64 attacks on health facilities in Ukraine so far, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday. “WHO has now verified 64 attacks on health care since the start of the war, and we are in the process of verifying further attacks,” Tedros said in a media briefing. “Attacks on health must stop. Health systems, facilities, and health workers are not and should not, [ever] be a target,” he said.
  • Bill to ban Russian oil sent to the US Senate: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has sent a bill to ban importing Russian oil, natural gas, and coal to the US Senate, a source familiar tells CNN. The House passed the bill on March 9.
6:52 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

UK to announce "major" new military support package for Ukraine at NATO and G7 leaders’ meetings

From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Arnaud Siad

The United Kingdom is set to announce a “major new military support package” for Ukraine at Thursday's NATO and the G7 leaders’ meetings.

The support package will include 6,000 missiles, consisting of anti-tank and high explosive weapons, and £25 million (33 million $USD) in financial backing for the Ukrainian military, according to a Downing Street press release on Wednesday.

“This more than doubles the defensive lethal aid provided to date to more than 10,000 missiles, and comes on top of the £400 million (528 million $USD) the UK has committed in humanitarian and economic aid for the crisis,” the release read.

The UK will also provide an additional £4.1 (5.5 million $USD) for the BBC World Service “to tackle disinformation in Russia and Ukraine, as well as new financial and policing support for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into war crimes.”

“Vladimir Putin is already failing in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people have shown themselves to be extraordinarily brave and tenacious in defending their homeland, in the face of an unprovoked onslaught,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the release.

“But we cannot and will not stand by while Russia grinds Ukraine’s towns and cities into dust. The United Kingdom will work with our allies to step up military and economic support to Ukraine, strengthening their defenses as they turn the tide in this fight,” he added.

“One month into this crisis, the international community faces a choice. We can keep the flame of freedom alive in Ukraine, or risk it being snuffed out across Europe and the world”, Johnson said.

According to the Downing Street statement, the UK has “already provided over 4,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces, including Next-Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons Systems, or NLAWs, and Javelin missiles. The Government is also supplying Starstreak high-velocity anti-air missiles to help Ukrainians defend themselves against aerial bombings, as well as body armour, helmets and combat boots.”

6:28 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Barrage of outgoing fire witnessed in northwest Kyiv

From CNN’s Bex Wright, Ellie Kaufman and Jeremy Herb

(Bex Wright/CNN)
(Bex Wright/CNN)

CNN teams on the ground witnessed a barrage of outgoing fire late Wednesday evening that occurred in northwest Kyiv.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior US defense official told reporters that Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian forces back on the frontlines east of Kyiv.

Russian forces are about 55 kilometers (roughly 34 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the east, an increase of between 25 and 35 kilometers (roughly 15 to 22 miles) as compared to the same location yesterday, the official said.

To the northwest of Kyiv’s city center, Russian forces are “digging in, and they are establishing defensive positions,” the official said. They have not gotten any closer to Kyiv’s city center along this line, the official added. They remain 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) away from Kyiv’s city center to the northwest.

6:07 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Renault suspends production at its Moscow facility

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris

French carmaker Renault announced in a statement Wednesday that it has suspended all activities at its Moscow factory. The announcement comes as Ukrainian leaders have called for a boycott against the company, accused Renault of “sponsoring Russia’s war machine.”

Just one day earlier, Renault had said it was resuming production for three days only.

Regarding its involvement in major Russian car manufacturer AvtoVAZ, owned by Renault, the French carmaker said that it’s “assessing the available options, taking into account the current environment, while acting responsibly towards its 45,000 employees in Russia.”

The also company said it is “already implementing the necessary measures to comply with international sanctions.”

AvtoVAZ’s brand Lada represented nearly 21% of the Russian market in 2021, according to Renault Group’s financial results.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called out major French companies, including Renault, by name for continuing their operations in Russia.

“Renault, Auchan, Leroy Merlin and others must stop being the sponsors of Russia’s war machine,” Zelensky said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba went further, calling for a global boycott of the carmaker.

“Renault refuses to pull out of Russia. Not that it should surprise anyone when Renault supports a brutal war of aggression in Europe,” Kuleba said in a tweet. “But mistakes must come with a price, especially when repeated. I call on customers and businesses around the globe to boycott Group Renault.”

Renault declined to comment when asked by CNN if the decision to suspend its activities at the Moscow factory is connected to the strong words from Ukrainian leaders.

Renault said in the statement that the value of its consolidated intangible assets, property, plant, equipment, and goodwill in Russia amounted to above $2.41 billion at the end of 2021.