March 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Sana Noor Haq, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Ed Upright, George Ramsay, Aditi Sangal and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 26, 2022
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11:44 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Russian defense ministry provides first major military personnel casualty update since March 2

From CNN staff

The Russian military said in a briefing on Friday that 1,351 military personnel had been killed in Ukraine and 3,825 had been wounded, in the first major casualty update since March 2.

US, Ukrainian and NATO estimates put estimates of Russian troop losses much higher. Two senior NATO military officials on Wednesday estimated the number of Russian soldiers killed in action in Ukraine to be between 7,000 and 15,000. Other US officials have put Russian losses in a similar range — between 7,000 and 14,000 Russian soldiers killed — but they have expressed “low confidence” in those estimates. 

"Unfortunately, during the special military operation, there have been losses among our comrades," said First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Col. General Sergei Rudskoy, using the official euphemism that refers to the war in Ukraine. "To date, 1,351 servicemen have died, 3,825 have been injured. The state will take the responsibility to support families, raise children up to receive higher education, for full repayment of loans and resolving the housing issue."

Rudskoy added that the military had received a "large number of applications from Russian citizens" hoping to enlist and fight in Ukraine. 

More context: Friday's announcement was the first major casualty update by the Russian military since March 2, when the Russian Ministry of Defense reported 498 Russian military personnel killed in Ukraine and 1,597 wounded.

In the same briefing, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said, "The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will continue to carry out the special military operation until all the assigned tasks are completed."

1:36 p.m. ET, March 25, 2022

In address to US troops in Poland, Biden praises Ukrainians for "stepping up" to defend their country

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt and Kevin Liptak

(Evan Vucci/AP)
(Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden lauded the bravery of Ukrainian civilians while speaking to US troops in Poland, saying they are "stepping up."

"Ukrainian people have a lot of backbone. They have a lot of guts," Biden said.

"Look at how they're stepping up. ... Women, young people standing in the middle of, in the front of a damn tank, just saying 'I'm not leaving. I'm holding my ground.' They're incredible," he said.

Biden said the stakes of the war in Ukraine extended beyond the country itself, framing the conflict as a test of democracies under threat from autocracies that could have global ramifications.

"What you're engaging in is much more than just whether or not you can alleviate people of Ukraine. We're in a new phase. Your generation, we're in an inflection point," he continued.

“The question is, who is going to prevail? Is democracy going to prevail and the values we share? Or are autocracies going to prevail? That's really what's at stake,” Biden said. “What you’re doing is consequential, really consequential.”

The conflict underway only is about 50 miles (more than 80 kilometers) from where Biden was standing in Rzeszów. Echoing the large foreign policy frame he’s used previously, but with a Russian addition, he said the assembled US service members were “in the midst of a fight between democracies and oligarchs.”

“What’s at stake, not just what we’re doing here in Ukraine to help the Ukrainian people and keep the massacre from continuing, but beyond that what’s at stake is what are your kids and grandkids going to look like in terms of their freedom?” Biden said.

He thanked the US troops, calling them the "finest fighting force in the history of the world."

Watch his remarks:

11:10 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

UN nuclear watchdog calls out Russia for shelling areas where Chernobyl power plant staff reside 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has called out Russia for shelling areas where staff who work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant live.   

In a statement Thursday evening, the IAEA said the Ukrainian regulator had informed it that "Russian forces were shelling Ukrainian checkpoints in the city of Slavutych where many people working at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) live."  

Slavutych is located outside the exclusion zone that was established in the wake of the infamous 1986 accident at the plant.   

"Ukraine’s regulatory authority said the shelling was endangering “the homes and families of those operational personnel that ensure the nuclear and radiation safety” of the Chernobyl NPP, which is under the control of Russian forces since 24 February," the statement continued.  

The UN watchdog's chief, Rafael Grossi, expressed his concern at the development, noting it took place just days after the plant's technical staff were allowed to return home and rest after working for nearly four weeks without a change of shift.  

11:00 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

UK prime minister had “frank” conversation with Chinese President, according to Downing Street

From CNN’s Beijing Bureau and Alex Hardie

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a “frank” conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, according to the prime minister’s spokesperson.

The two leaders discussed “a range of issues of mutual interest, including the situation in the Ukraine,” in what Johnson’s spokesperson called “a frank and candid conversation lasting almost an hour.”

They agreed to speak again soon, the spokesperson said.

Xi told Johnson that his country would play a "constructive role" in returning peace to Ukraine, according to a readout published by state media outlet Xinhua.

“Xi expounded China's principled position on Ukraine issue, stressing that the international community should truly promote peace talks, create conditions for the political settlement of the Ukrainian issue and push for Ukraine's return to peace at an early date. China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard,” according to the Xinhua article. 

Some more background: Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine but wants to avoid being impacted by the sanctions it has repeatedly denounced as an ineffective way of resolving the crisis.

Beijing gave its full backing last Wednesday to comments made earlier in the week by China's ambassador to Ukraine. "China will never attack Ukraine. We will help, especially economically," Fan Xianrong was quoted as saying in a news release from the Lviv regional government.

CNN also reported last week that Russia has asked China for military support, including drones, as well as economic assistance for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, according to two US officials. The requests came after the invasion, one of the officials said. That official declined to detail the Chinese reaction but indicated that the Chinese had responded. Both the Chinese and Russian governments publicly denied that the request happened.

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

China has also provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

CNN's Laura He contributed reporting to this post. 

10:43 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Air raid sirens heard in Lviv

From CNN's Jennifer Hauser

Air raid sirens went off Friday afternoon (local time) in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

They could be heard in the background where CNN's John Berman was anchoring, and they sounded for about four or five minutes. CNN will continue to monitor.

Lviv is about 43 miles (70 kilometers) from the border with Poland.

10:18 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Plane carrying Polish president lands in Rzeszów for meeting with Biden 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and Anna Odzeniak 

The plane carrying Polish President Andrzej Duda has landed in Rzeszów, in southeastern Poland, after being forced to make an emergency landing and return to Warsaw earlier on Friday. 

Duda was traveling from Warsaw to Rzeszów to meet with US President Joe Biden when the emergency landing occurred. 

"There was an emergency landing of the plane with President Duda; the plane returned to Warsaw," according to Polish government news agency PAP. 

A White House official also confirmed the emergency landing.

Biden flipped his schedule this morning, meeting first with the members of 82nd Airborne Division and then participating in humanitarian events in Poland, according to pool reporters. The White House said Duda would participate as well if he arrived in time.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Allie Malloy contributed reporting to this post.

10:46 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

Biden meets with US 82nd Airborne Division in Poland

President Joe Biden visits with members of the 82nd Airborne Division at the G2A Arena, on March 25, in Jasionka, Poland.
President Joe Biden visits with members of the 82nd Airborne Division at the G2A Arena, on March 25, in Jasionka, Poland. (Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden is meeting with members of the 82nd Airborne Division in Rzeszów, Poland, alongside US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other US officials.

"This is a big deal for the President to be meeting with these troops. It's not just a big deal for these soldiers, it's a big deal because it sends a powerful message of what the US is all about, bolstering this NATO presence in Europe," CNN's Wolf Blitzer reported.

Biden could be seen sitting down to eat pizza with service members.

Biden will next be receiving a briefing on the humanitarian response to the refugee crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

10:08 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

"We are going on the counterattack," Ukrainian government adviser says about fighting in Kyiv region

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Andrew Carey in Lviv

A Ukrainian government adviser struck an upbeat note describing recent offensives in the region around Kyiv.

“We are going on the counterattack. We are moving forward,” Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the interior minister, told Ukrainian television.

CNN reported earlier that Ukrainian forces appeared to have retaken territory around the small settlement of Lukianovka about 55 kilometers (about 34 miles) east of the capital. Social media geolocated by CNN depicted the aftermath of heavy battles there.

To the immediate northwest of Kyiv, the mayor of Irpin told CNN that 80% of the town was controlled by the Ukrainian army, but added it was still coming under sustained fire from Russian Grad rockets.

“Very serious battles took place near Baryshivka [to the east], Bucha, Hostomel, and Irpin [all to the northwest]. We managed to recapture quite a lot,” Denysenko said.

Defensive lines were being held, he said, with counter-offensives staged.

“Twelve tanks, several planes, more than 10 units of armored vehicles and at least 300 people were destroyed in the last 24 hours,” he said.

At the same time, Denysenko reported further Russian airstrikes to the south of the capital, near Vasylkiv, which is about 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) away, and Bila Tserkva, about 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) away.

According to Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Russia’s response to its loses is to continue building up troop numbers in neighboring Belarus, with many deployed from units in Russia’s east.

9:35 a.m. ET, March 25, 2022

US assesses Russia is running low on air-launched cruise missiles and is experiencing high rates of failure

From CNN's Barbara Starr

The US has assessed that Russian forces are running low on air-launched cruise missiles, and there are indications they are trying to preserve that inventory as part of their declining stocks of precision guided munitions, according to a US defense official.

Air-launched cruise missiles are the “lowest” part of the inventory, the official added.

In addition, these missiles are showing high failure rates at launch, the official said. The US currently assesses Russian failure rates of precision guided munitions, especially cruise missiles failure rates, range from “20 percent to as high as 60 percent,” the official said, depending on the type of weapon and mission.  

The US has tracked this information in part by observing the number of Russian missions that appear to involve unguided, or "dumb," bombs. Satellites and other airborne intelligence platforms can monitor the failure of some missile launches by gathering intelligence on infrared and radar signatures of the aircraft and the missiles.