March 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Travis Caldwell, Helen Regan, Amy Woodyatt, Maureen Chowdhury, Jason Kurtz and Kathryn Snowdon, CNN

Updated 12:03 AM ET, Tue March 29, 2022
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4:53 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Biden says he doesn't care if Putin views his remark as escalatory

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on Monday.
US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on Monday. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

US President Joe Biden said he doesn't care what Vladimir Putin thinks of his comment that he shouldn't be in power in Russia.

"I don’t care what he thinks. He’s going to do what he’s going to do," Biden said when asked by a reporter whether he was concerned Putin would see the remark as escalatory. 

Biden said he was skeptical Putin could be swayed by any outside event, his remark included.

"Given his recent behavior, people should understand he is going to do what he thinks he should do, period," Biden said at the White House. "He’s not affected by anyone else, including, unfortunately, his own advisers. This is a guy who goes to the beat of his own drummer. And the idea he is going to do something outrageous because I called him for what he was and what he’s doing I think is just not rational."

 Watch Reporters and Biden go back and forth over Putin remarks:

3:38 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

President Biden says he was "talking to the Russian people" when he went off-script

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

US President Joe Biden said that he was talking to the Russian people when he made the off-the-cuff remark that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” during a speech over the weekend.

“I was talking to the Russian people,” Biden said, when asked on Monday by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins why he ad-libbed the line.

“The last part of the speech was talking to Russian people,” he said. “I was communicating this to not only the Russian people but the whole world. This is, this is just stating a simple fact that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. And the way to deal with it is to strengthen and keep NATO completely united and help Ukraine where we can.”

Moments before, Biden likened the meaning of his comment to a person saying objectively, “bad people shouldn't continue to do bad things,” and not announcing a change in policy.

3:32 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Biden says he's not walking back Putin remark, but not voicing policy change

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and DJ Judd

US President Joe Biden says he isn't walking back his remarks that President Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power.

"I'm not walking anything back," President Biden said Monday at the White House, emphasizing he wasn't voicing a policy change but that he was expressing an opinion based on his emotions from the day. "I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing and the actions of this man.”

"I'd just come from being with those families," he said, referring to Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw. 

"I wasn’t then or wasn’t now expressing a policy change," Biden said.

"I make no apologies for it," he said.

Biden continued, “I was expressing just what I said — I was expressing the moral outrage I felt towards this man. I wasn't articulating a policy change. And I think that you know, if he continues on this course, he is going to become a pariah worldwide, and who knows what it can become at home in terms of support.”

The US President dismissed the suggestion that his remarks might escalate the conflict in Ukraine, telling reporters, “No, I'm not.”

Biden said the suggestion that other leaders may take issue with Biden’s unscripted remarks during his address in Poland has not borne, nor has it weakened NATO.

“NATO has never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been as strong as it is today,” Biden said.

3:11 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

British PM tells Ukraine that UK will "strengthen economic pressure" on Russia 

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy and David Wilkinson in London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday as part of their "ongoing dialogue," and told him that the UK will "strengthen economic pressure" on Russia, a Downing Street spokesperson said. 

The prime minister "reiterated the UK would maintain and strengthen economic pressure on Putin’s regime," the spokesperson continued. 

In a tweet Monday, Zelensky also said that the two countries "discussed strengthening sanctions against Russia." 

The UK has imposed a raft of sanctions on Russia, targeting individuals and companies. 

Zelensky also gave Johnson an update on the "appalling humanitarian situation" in the besieged city of Mariupol "where heavy fighting continues," the spokesperson said. 

“The Prime Minister offered his full support to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s continued aggression, including with humanitarian support and more defensive equipment," they added.

Finally, as the latest round of talks between Russia and Ukraine are set to kick off in Istanbul on Tuesday, the Ukrainian leader also briefed his British counterpart on the talks, according to Downing Street.

3:11 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

Ukraine's foreign minister thanks Turkey for mediating next round of talks with Russia

From CNN Staff

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday thanked Turkey for hosting the next round of talks between Ukraine and Russia.

Following a call with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Kuleba tweeted that he is “grateful to Turkey for hosting the next round of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. I hope that under Turkish mediation leadership these negotiations will bring results serving the interests of peace in Ukraine and our security.”

The Russia-Ukraine talks are set to resume in-person in Istanbul, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday during a news conference.  

During a call with journalists, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the negotiations between the two sides are likely to resume Tuesday.

3:13 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

US deploying 6 Navy electronic warfare jets to Germany as it bolsters forces in eastern Europe 

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Oren Liebermann

The Pentagon is deploying six US Navy electronic warfare jets and more than 200 accompany troops to Germany as the US bolsters its forces in eastern Europe amid Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters today that six Navy E/A-18G Growler jets were deploying from Naval Air Station Whidbey in Washington state to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, and the jets were expected to arrive today.

In addition, they would be accompanied by about 240 Navy air crew, pilots and maintenance staff, he said.

The Navy Growler jets are primarily used for flying electronic warfare missions, including radar jamming to help suppress air defenses. 

Kirby said that the Growlers were not being sent to be used against Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, and the deployment was not being made in response to any incident. 

“They are being deployed completely in keeping with our efforts to bolster NATO’s deterrence and defense capabilities along that eastern flank,” Kirby said. “They are not being sent because of some acute threat that was perceived or some specific incident that happened. They are being deployed as we have said all along, the secretary wants to keep options open.”

The Navy deployment adds to the thousands of US troops that have deployed to NATO countries in eastern Europe over the past five weeks since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.  

Brendan Stickles, a former commander of an E/A-18G squadron, told CNN that he wasn't surprised that an expeditionary Navy Growler squadron was deployed in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

"The six Growlers provide a unique electronic warfare capability to NATO that can help defend our partners and allies from any future aggression. Just as importantly, tactical deployments of non-kinetic forces — like the Growler — can expand our preparedness while avoiding any unintentional escalation," Stickles said.

"The Growler can prohibit Russian surface to air missiles from targeting NATO aircraft. Despite the Russian tactical setbacks, they retain the ability to track and down our aircraft should they decide. The Growler can protect our forces from early warning, tracking, and targeting radars," he continued.

CNN's Alex Marquardt contributed reporting to this post.

2:22 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

UN calls on Russia and Ukraine to investigate videos of mistreated POWs

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy in London 

The United Nations has called on both Russia and Ukraine to launch an investigation after videos emerged of prisoners of war (POWs) being allegedly mistreated.    

"We have seen videos from both sides of Ukrainian prisoners of war that have been taken by the Russian side and Russian prisoners of war that have been taken by the Ukrainian side," the Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine Matilda Bogner told a briefing on Monday. 

On Sunday, a video emerged showing what appear to be Ukrainian soldiers shooting men who are apparently Russian prisoners in the knees during an operation in the Kharkiv region. During the nearly six-minute-long video, the soldiers are heard saying that they have captured a Russian reconnaissance group operating from Olkhovka, a settlement in Kharkiv that's roughly 20 miles from the Russian border.  

During the video, a group of Russian soldiers can be seen lying on the ground with at least two of the soldiers' legs bleeding heavily. One man is heard crying out in Russian “my leg, my leg.”  

Speaking in an interview posted on YouTube Sunday, senior Ukrainian Presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych stressed that the Ukrainian government “is taking this very seriously and will carry out an “immediate investigation” into the video in question. 

The UN is still "in the process of verifying all of the material that has been issued," Bogner said on Monday, adding that it "raises serious concerns." CNN has reached out to Bogner's office for comment on the video allegedly showing Russian soldiers with bleeding legs. 

"We do call on the authorities on both sides to do full investigations of the allegations that are raised by these videos," Bogner said. 

"It is important that these types of videos and that any ill treatment that may happen is stopped immediately," she continued, adding that the UN hopes these investigations will ensure that any perpetrators are "held to account." 

She reminded both countries of their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law to treat POWs humanely and ensure they "are not exposed to public curiosity and are treated with dignity."

CNN’s Tim Lister, Celine Alkhaldi, Katherina Krebs and Josh Pennington contributed to this report.

2:09 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

UN delivers food, medical supplies and household items to Kharkiv, Ukraine

From CNN's Richard Roth and Laura Ly

Residents wait in line to receive aid from the Ukrainian Red Cross in Kharkiv on March 24.
Residents wait in line to receive aid from the Ukrainian Red Cross in Kharkiv on March 24. (Felipe Dana/AP)

The United Nations and its partners were able to safely deliver food rations, medical supplies, and household items to Kharkiv, Ukraine on Monday, according to a statement from Osnat Lubrani, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine.

The supplies were provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). In coordination with the Ukrainian Red Cross, the supplies will also be delivered to “hard-to-reach areas like Izium, Balakliia and Chuhuiv,” Lubrani said 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also discussed UN's humanitarian work on Monday during a morning press briefing, saying there are now more than 1,000 UN personnel working in Ukraine across eight humanitarian hubs in Dnipro, Vinnytsia, Lviv, Uzhorod, Chernivitzi, Mukachevo, Luhansk and Donetsk.

Here are some updates on the UN and its partner organizations that he offered:

  • In the past month, the UN and its partners have reached nearly 900,000 people, mostly in eastern Ukraine, with food, shelter, blankets, medicine, bottled water, and hygiene supplies
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have reached some 800,000 people in the past month, and are scaling up to reach 1.2 million people by mid-April
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have reached more than half a million people with emergency health, trauma and surgery kits
  • On Monday, a convoy of trucks brought food, medical and other relief supplies from WFP, WHO, UNHCR, UNICEF to Kharkiv to be delivered to “thousands of people in hard-hit areas”

1:05 p.m. ET, March 28, 2022

What we know about forced deportations of Ukrainians into Russia

From CNN's Rob Picheta in London

Ukrainian officials have accused the Russian government of engaging in a policy of deportation, moving civilians -- including thousands of children -- into Russia against their will and detaining them "like souls for an exchange fund."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said that more than 2,000 children have been "stolen" from the besieged port city of Mariupol, which has been under sustained Russian attack since the early days of the invasion.

Calling the situation in the city a "humanitarian catastrophe," Zelensky told a collection of independent Russian journalists that "according to our information, more than two thousand children were taken out. That means stolen." 

"Their exact location is unknown. They can be there with or without parents,” Zelensky said. "All in all, it's a disaster. I can't tell you what that looks like at all. It's scary. They hold them like souls for an exchange fund."

Ukrainian officials have made similar claims regarding other regions. CNN cannot independently verify claims about the number of children taken out of Mariupol and other towns into Russia. 

What has been claimed? The Russian Defense Ministry first said on March 20 that 16,434 people, including 2,389 children, had been evacuated from various locations a day before. Those locations included the Russia-backed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, according to the ministry, which said that people left of their own volition. ��

But the next day, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the same number of children had in fact been forcibly evacuated from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by Russian forces. "Such actions are a gross violation of international law, in particular international humanitarian law," the ministry said.

Since then, estimates from Ukraine of the number of people deported to Russia have risen.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the Ukrainian government estimated the number of Ukrainians forcibly deported to Russia since the invasion was nearly 40,000.

Those claims were bolstered by Denis Pushilin, the leader of the pro-Russian Donetsk People's Republic, who said Sunday that around 1,700 people are being "evacuated" daily from the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and other towns.

"An average of about 1,700 people are arriving to the Volodar temporary accommodation center for evacuees every day and, in turn, the same number of people are leaving it," Pushilin said in a statement on Telegram, referring to a settlement known in Ukrainian as Nikolske, about 13 miles northwest of Mariupol. 

"Residents of Mariupol and other settlements that are being liberated from the occupation of the Kyiv regime arrive here," Pushilin said. "People are provided with basic necessities, medical care, and then evacuated to the Russian Federation."

Debate over Red Cross office: Amid the disputes over the alleged Russian policy, there has also been wrangling over the role of humanitarian network the Red Cross. 

On Friday, Vereshchuk accused the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) head Peter Maurer of taking a "very questionable decision" to open an office in Rostov – which lies about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the border with Ukraine. Such an office "legitimized" Russia’s deportations, she suggested.  

The Red Cross issued a statement rejecting those claims. The ICRC, which generally keeps a low public profile, responded following what it called "false information circulating online" that it was helping Russia move tens of thousands of people out of the country. 

It said it had no office in Rostov but is "scaling up our regional set up to be able respond to needs where we see them. Our priority is to ensure a steady supply of lifesaving aid reaches people, wherever they are."

CNN's Nathan Hodge, Andrew Carey and Olga Voitovych contributed reporting.