March 30, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Maureen Chowdhury, Travis Caldwell, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Lianne Kolirin and Sana Noor Haq, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, March 31, 2022
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11:43 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

US is "confident in" assessment Putin has been misinformed by his advisers, official says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The US government is "confident in" the assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been misinformed by his advisers about their military’s performance in Ukraine, according to a senior State Department official.

“It’s information we’re confident in,” the official said. “I think it’s information that we’re confident in now and it’s also information that probably had a degree of truth to it before the invasion.”

On Wednesday, the US revealed declassified intelligence showing that Putin has been misinformed by his own advisers.

“There’s only so much we can say about where this information is derived from,” the official said, declining to provide additional details on the intelligence. He explained it was necessary to protect sources and methods.

“Putin clearly seems to have thought that he could go into Ukraine, that his forces wouldn’t meet resistance, that they would be greeted warmly including in Russian speaking parts of Ukraine, that he would be able to take Kyiv in a matter of 48, 72 hours,” the official said.
“Every single element that he seems to have believed turns out to be wrong. So, whether his advisers weren’t giving him the full unvarnished truth, whether he wasn’t listening, you know … I think we’ve seen this every step of the way.” 

Speaking on a visit to Morocco, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "One of the Achilles' heels of autocracies is that you don't have people in those systems who speak truth to power or who have the ability to speak truth to power. And I think that is something that we're seeing in Russia."

11:51 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Video appears to show Ukrainian gains near northern city of Chernihiv

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy and Sharif Paget

A bombed-out, enflamed Russian tank
A bombed-out, enflamed Russian tank (From Telegram)

Video posted on social media appears to show Ukrainian troops have retaken territory from Russian forces near the northern city of Chernihiv.

A number of Ukrainian forces are seen in video filmed in the village of Sloboda, about 12 miles (19 kilometers) from Chernihiv.

The video shows Ukrainian forces in the village of Sloboda.
The video shows Ukrainian forces in the village of Sloboda. (From Telegram)

The village is vital to Ukrainian efforts breaking the Russian encirclement of Chernihiv. It would also be one of the first major victories in breaking the encirclement.  

The video has been geolocated and its authenticity verified by CNN.

The footage shows a bombed-out, enflamed Russian tank. Thick white smoke is seen in the streets of the village, in addition to Ukrainian forces.

Some context: Chernihiv, located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Kyiv, came under "colossal attack" Wednesday, according to the city's mayor. Strikes also continued in the Kyiv suburbs, just a day after Russia claimed it was scaling back its military campaign near the capital and surrounding area. Russian advances on Kyiv and Chernihiv had already stalled before Moscow's announcement.

10:17 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Some Russian forces have withdrawn from Chernobyl, US official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

Some Russian forces have withdrawn from the Chernobyl nuclear power site, according to a senior US defense official.

Chernobyl, infamous location of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, is about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Kyiv. The site fell into Russian hands in the first days of the invasion in late February, triggering fears that safety standards inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone could be compromised.

The withdrawal comes as a portion of Russian troops near the Ukrainian capital have repositioned. 

Troop movement: On Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the US has seen approximately 20% of Russia’s forces moving against Kyiv “repositioning,” with some heading to Belarus. Kirby said the troops that have been repositioning have generally been fighting in areas to the north and northwest of Kyiv. 

Some context: One week ago, Ukraine’s government said Russian forces had looted and destroyed a lab close to the abandoned nuclear plant, which was used to monitor radioactive waste. 

Russian claims: The movement of Russian forces near Chernobyl and elsewhere around Kyiv came one day after Russia’s Ministry of Defense said its forces would “de-escalate” around Kyiv. Despite the Russian claim, Kyiv and the surroundings cities have seen an ongoing Russian bombardment in the past 24 hours. 

“Our assessment would be as we said yesterday that they’re going to refit these troops, resupply them, and them probably employ them elsewhere in Ukraine,” Kirby said. 
9:57 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Biden considers releasing 1 million oil barrels per day as prices spike over Ukraine war

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden is considering releasing a record amount of oil from US reserves in response to high gas prices amid the war in Ukraine. 

A plan being considered involves releasing about 1 million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the coming months, a person familiar with the deliberations said. 

The announcement could come as soon as Thursday, when the President is scheduled to deliver remarks from the White House on gas prices. 

Biden last month announced a coordinated release of oil from the reserves in conjunction with other nations. He also released about 60 million barrels in November. 

Some context: The price of oil has spiked following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month, sending already-high gas prices skyrocketing. 

Read more about pain at the pump:

9:45 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

White House confirms Biden's meeting with family of American detained in Russia

From CNN's Sam Fossum

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed President Joe Biden met with the family of Trevor Reed Wednesday at the White House.

Reed was detained in Russia in 2019 and sentenced to nine years a year later for endangering the "life and health" of Russian police officers in an altercation — charges he denies.

"During their meeting, the President reiterated his commitment to continue to work to secure the release of Trevor, Paul Whelan, and other Americans wrongfully held in Russia and elsewhere, and to provide all possible assistance until they and others are free and returned home to their families who are advocating so passionately for their release," Psaki said in a statement. 

The Reed family had been demonstrating outside the White House to raise awareness about their son's ordeal.

9:46 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

War in Ukraine entering "crucial period" as Russia shifts strategy, US senator says

From CNN's David Shortell

US Sen. Angus King speaks with CNN on Wednesday March 30.
US Sen. Angus King speaks with CNN on Wednesday March 30. (CNN)

The war in Ukraine is entering a "crucial period" as Russian troops refocus their efforts and Russian President Vladimir Putin grows increasingly desperate, US Sen. Angus King told CNN.

"The next two weeks are really going to be crucial to see if the Ukrainian forces can keep up the extraordinary level of fight that they have over the last several weeks," King, a Maine independent, said.

King spoke to CNN after receiving a classified briefing from US administration officials.

"The Russians do seem to be refocusing towards the east and the danger is they encircle the Ukrainian troops and squeeze them pretty substantially," he said.

Russian tactics: The senator gave credence to reporting that some Russian forces are moving away from Kyiv but also said the moves could be merely an opportunity to resupply in the region.

"I think it's a little of both," King said. "They divided their army essentially into three pieces and now what they're doing is reconsolidating. They've decided they're not going to be able to take Kyiv, at least not now, and they're consolidating in the south and the west."

King warned that Putin could turn to more dangerous measures as Ukrainian victories continue, including shifting his strategy toward his "normal modus operandi" of "hammering civilians in cities like he did in Aleppo with (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad and Grozny in Chechnya."

9:06 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Biden meets with family of US citizen Trevor Reed detained in Russia

From CNN's Sam Fossum

Joey and Paula Reed, parents of U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed, stand in Lafayette Park near the White House on Wednesday, March 30.
Joey and Paula Reed, parents of U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Russian prisoner Trevor Reed, stand in Lafayette Park near the White House on Wednesday, March 30. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The family of Trevor Reed, a US citizen detained in Russia since 2019, met with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Wednesday.

The family had been demonstrating outside the White House to raise awareness about their son's ordeal.

"He listened intently to everything we had to say until we were through talking. We couldn't have asked for more," said Reed's father, Joey Reed.

The meeting lasted more than 30 minutes, according to the Reed family. 

"We got to get it off our chest, all the things that we've been wanting to say to him, and it's done. We got to say what we wanted to say. He listened intently, and we're grateful for that," said Reed's mother, Paula Reed.

Some context: Reed, a former US Marine, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 for endangering the "life and health" of Russian police officers in an altercation. Reed and his family have denied the charges against him. During his time in detention, Reed has complained he has not received adequate medical care, saying in recent weeks he is coughing up blood.

Joey Reed had previously said he’s concerned the invasion of Ukraine will worsen his son’s fate.

The family's campaign: The Reeds said they plan to keep up the public pressure to secure the release of their son and other Americans detained abroad. 

"We're gonna keep giving media interviews and spreading the word about our son so that more Americans know about him and all the Americans held in different countries," Joey Reed said. "And hopefully, the President will do what he needs to get our son and other Americans home as quickly as possible before — before they die, they're injured for life."

CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.

8:26 p.m. ET, March 30, 2022

Ukrainian official says Russia talks will resume Friday as calls grow for Putin-Zelensky meeting

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukraine's next round of negotiations with Russia will resume online on April 1, the head of the Ukrainian delegation said on Wednesday.

In a message posted to his Telegram channel, David Arakhamia also said that during negotiations in Turkey this week, it was announced the time has come for a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The Russian delegation said it first needs a draft agreement with stronger approval on both sides, Arakhamia said.

But the Ukrainian negotiator called for the next meeting to be held between the presidents of the two countries. No date or official meeting between the two leaders has been scheduled yet.

“At the same time, we insist that such a meeting does not take place on the territory of Russia or Belarus,” Arakhamia said.