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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10:43 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

At least 264 civilians killed in Kyiv since beginning of Russian invasion, city's mayor says

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai

(Vitaly Klitschko/YouTube)
(Vitaly Klitschko/YouTube)

At least 264 civilians, including four children, have died in the Ukrainian capital since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko.

More than 300 people have been hospitalized due to injuries and more than 80 buildings have been destroyed, Klitschko said.

"The target of aggressors is the capital of Ukraine," the mayor said in a video on his YouTube channel Wednesday.

The bombardment of Ukraine by Russian forces began one month ago.

Before the war, about 3 million people lived in Kyiv but the population has now dwindled to about half that because of how many people have fled, Klitschko said.

“We need support right now in this very difficult time,” he said.
“Everybody’s surprised how tough Ukrainian army, how tough Ukrainian soldiers (are) because we stand in front one of the strongest armies in the world: the Russian army."

Klitschko said Ukrainians are "so tough" because, unlike Russian soldiers, they are fighting to defend their children, their families, their city and their future.

Russia, he said, wants to rebuild its empire but Ukraine wants "to be part of the European family as a democratic, modern European country of Ukraine."


11:33 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

"Complete carnage": Chernihiv mayor says cemetery can't handle the dead as video shows destruction

From CNN's Sharif Paget and Josh Pennington

A still from the video shared by Chernihiv Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko.
A still from the video shared by Chernihiv Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko. (From Telegram)

The mayor of Chernihiv said the northern Ukrainian city's cemetery cannot handle all the dead as the Russian onslaught takes its toll on the civilian population.

Badly damaged buildings line rubble-strewn streets, while still-burning fires fill the air with heavy smoke, as seen in a new video from Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko.

The video, geolocated and verified by CNN, offers an extensive look from the ground at the city that has seen some of the most intense shelling since Russia invaded Ukraine four weeks ago.

"The city cemetery cannot handle all the dead, so we are keeping people in morgues and refrigerators longer than normal. We are burying people in the old cemeteries that haven't been used in a while," Atroshenko said in the video while driving through the city's Desnyans'kyi district.

When the person recording the video asked how many people have died so far, the mayor said the city is not keeping statistics but all cases will be handled by the prosecutor's office.

"There was a direct strike here. There is a tractor over there burning," he said. "We are located right now in the zone of combat."

Driving on Shevchenka street, located in the eastern part of the city, the mayor looks out at tattered billboards and homes with their roofs blown off or caved in.  

"Look at these neighborhoods. They are completely destroyed. You can clearly see that complete carnage has been unleashed here," he said.

Watch: Video shows destroyed buildings, smoke and debris-filled streets in Chernihiv

10:37 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Former Russian oil tycoon says West is repeating same mistakes it made with Hitler

Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky. (CNN)

The leaders of Western powers are making the same mistakes with Russian President Vladimir Putin that their predecessors did with Hitler, says former Russian oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Khodorkovsky — once Russia's richest man — spent more than a decade in prison for tax evasion and fraud following a prosecution he said was part of a Kremlin campaign to destroy him. He now lives in exile overseas.

Speaking to CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday, Khodorkovsky said he sees parallels between the situation in Ukraine today and the lead up to World War II.

"Western leaders kept saying they were afraid to aggravate Hitler and they thought well, if you're not showing any resistance, eventually he'll stop," he said. "However, that mistake has cost hundreds of millions human lives. Hundreds of millions of human lives were lost and the same mistake is being committed now."

Some context: NATO is unwilling to get directly involved in the war beyond supporting Ukraine’s resistance as it could escalate the conflict.

On the ground, Ukraine's forces are being helped by Russia's corruption, Khodorkovsky said, adding: "the level of (Russia's) unpreparedness has come as a great surprise to me."

It comes after US officials said the Russian military is suffering shortages of food and fuel and is plagued with logistics and sustainment problems. One official said there are indications some Russian soldiers have gotten frost bite because they lack the appropriate cold-weather gear.

Going after the oligarchs: Asked whether Russian oligarchs deserved to be sanctioned by the West, Khodorkovsky replied that even though it was "preposterous" to think the tycoons had any real influence over Putin, those who continued to back the Russian leader were "dangerous."

"Oligarchs are not true oligarchs in the sense that they actually do not influence Putin," he said.

"Yet they are Putin's instruments of influence and to see for real who has broken their relations with Putin would be when they actually denounce him and when they admit that he is a war criminal. And if that doesn't happen, that means they still depend on him and they're still dangerous."
10:19 p.m. ET, March 23, 2022

Sitting at a table with Putin at G20 summit is "a step too far," Australia's prime minister says

From CNN’s Sophie Jeong and Hilary Whiteman

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday he has raised concerns about the possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin attending the G20 summit in Indonesia in November.

“The idea of sitting around a table with Vladimir Putin, who the United States are already in the position of calling out (for) war crimes in Ukraine, for me is a step too far,” Morrison said during a media briefing.
“We’ve been raising concerns about this. And Russia has invaded Ukraine. I mean this is a violent and aggressive act that shatters the international rule of law."

Russia’s ambassador in Jakarta said Wednesday that Putin “wants to go” to the G20 summit, in response to unconfirmed reports the US and its Western allies are assessing whether Moscow should remain within the group.

 Indonesia currently holds the rotating G20 chair.

“G20 is not only a summit. G20 is a process. There are a lot of meetings that were held by Indonesia both online and offline and Russia is actively participating in these meetings,” the Russian ambassador told reporters in Jakarta.
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.