Editor’s note: This page recaps the news from Ukraine on Monday, March. 21. Follow here for the latest updates and news from Tuesday, March 22, as Russia’s invasion continues.
President Joe Biden confirmed Russia’s use of hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, warning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “back is against the wall,” which means he could resort to using more severe tactics as the war stretches into another week.
Speaking at the Business Roundtable’s CEO Quarterly Meeting on Monday, Biden said Russia used the fast-flying missiles “because it’s the only thing that they can get through” Ukrainian defenses. He called it a “consequential weapon” that’s “almost impossible to stop.”
“There’s a reason they’re using it,” Biden said.
Russia has said it twice used its Kinzhal aviation missile system to strike targets in Ukraine. Hypersonic missiles can move at five times the speed of sound or more. The Russian military said these missiles are capable of hitting targets at a range of more than 1,200 miles, or roughly the distance from New York City to Kansas City.
Biden also said Putin didn’t anticipate how unified NATO and western allies would be in a global response to his invasion of Ukraine. “The more his back is against the wall, the greater severity of the tactics he may employ,” Biden warned.
The president said false-flag maneuvers like accusing the U.S. of housing biological and chemical weapons inside Ukraine — a claim the White House has vehemently denied — could be a pretext to escalate attacks.
“Whenever he starts talking about something he thinks NATO, Ukraine or the United States is about to do, it means he’s getting ready to do it,” said Biden, who reiterated a White House warning that Russia may be on the verge of a cyber attack against critical U.S. infrastructure.
“The magnitude of Russia’s cyber capacity is fairly consequential and it’s coming,” he said.
— Courtney Subramanian
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►Boris Romanchenko, a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor, was killed Friday when the building where he lived in Kharkiv, Ukraine, was hit by a Russian projectile, Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp memorial said.
►Prime ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland and Mark Rutte of The Netherlands on Monday discussed further sanctions on Russia, including banning imports of its oil and gas and closing European ports to Russian ships.
►AP video journalist Mstyslav Chernov has recounted his harrowing experience as the only international journalist, along with AP photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, in besieged Mariupol before fleeing last week. “We were the last journalists in Mariupol. Now there are none,” he said. Read Chernov’s account here.
►Russia reopened bond trading on the Moscow exchange Monday for the first time since the country invaded Ukraine. Stock trading remained closed.
►President Joe Biden hosted a 58-minute call Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “They discussed their serious concerns about Russia’s brutal tactics in Ukraine, including its attacks on civilians,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Russia says relations with US on verge of rupture, but phone still works
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that it had summoned the U.S. ambassador to warn that President Joe Biden’s recent remarks have put Russian-American relations on the verge of rupture.
Biden last week described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal” as Russia’s missile attacks on Ukraine cities intensified. The Foreign Ministry, in a social media post, called the statement and other references to Putin and the Russian invasion “unworthy of a statesman of such high rank.”
The Pentagon said in a statement that it established a phone line with Russian commanders on March 1 to prevent misunderstandings over the war. The line gets tested regularly, including Monday, and it works, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Still, the ministry warned Ambassador John Sullivan that hostile actions taken against Russia would be met with a “decisive and firm rebuff.”
The warning came hours after Ukraine firmly rejected a Russian offer to open two safe corridors out of Mariupol in exchange for the city’s surrender as the relentless missile strikes on the battered seaport city stretched deeper into a fourth week.
Russian forces, facing stiff resistance against their invasion of Ukraine, have sought to gain control of cities but can claim few successes thus far. The Kremlin says its “special operation” is going as planned. But a senior Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity Monday, said Russian President Vladimir Putin has not achieved his goals and is relying on bombardment of cities in a “near-desperate” effort to gain momentum.
Biden warns of Russian cyberattacks against US
President Joe Biden warned again Monday that Russia may be preparing to wage cyberattacks against the United States in retaliation for the economic sanctions the U.S. and its NATO allies have levied against Moscow.
Biden said the warning is based on “on evolving intelligence” that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks. He did not elaborate.
“My administration will continue to use every tool to deter, disrupt, and if necessary, respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure,” he said in a statement. “But the federal government can’t defend against this threat alone.”
Most of the critical infrastructure in the U.S. is owned and operated by the private sector. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has been working with organizations to rapidly share information and guidance to help protect their systems and networks, Biden said.
He urged the private sector to “harden your cyber defenses” by immediately implementing best practices developed over the past year.
– Michael Collins
European officials say Russia has committed war crimes, but still buy its oil
European officials are joining U.S. President Joe Biden in accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine, but they fell short of calling for a ban on Russian oil, gas and coal, which Europe purchases at a cost of $1 billion a day.
With civilian deaths mounting in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock highlighted the increase in Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and theaters. The “courts will have to decide, but for me these are clearly war crimes,” Baerbock said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels, said that “what’s happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime. Destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody in an indiscriminate manner. This is something awful.”
Yacht belonging to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich docks in Turkey
The yacht of sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich was greeted by a group carrying Ukrainian flags with the words “No War” emblazoned on them upon docking Monday in the resort city of Bodrum in the Turkish Riviera, the Sozcu newspaper reported.
It’s unclear whether Abramovich, owner of the British soccer club Chelsea, was aboard or if the yacht was moved to Turkey to avoid sanctions. Last week, the European Union imposed sanctions on Abramovich as it updated a list of individuals facing asset freeze and travel bans over their close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Turkey, a member of NATO, has criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine but has not joined other countries in imposing sanctions as it positions itself as a neutral party trying to mediate.
Russian reliance on ‘dumb bombs’ puts civilians at greater risk
Russian forces appear to be running short of precision-guided weapons, said a senior Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity Monday. The so-called “smart bombs” use lasers and satellites to guide them to their target while the Russians increasingly are relying on “dumb bombs” – less precise weapons that put civilians at greater risk, the official said.
commanders continue to have problems communicating and directing their forces in Ukraine, the official said. Commanders are using unsecured communication lines that can be intercepted. Ukrainian airspace remains contested, and Russian pilots are not flying far or often into Ukraine, fearing the air-defense systems – including long-range and shoulder-fired missiles that are being used with “great dexterity,” the official said.
Russia’s targeting of civilian areas could be an attempt to force Ukraine to make concessions in negotiations, the official said. In Ukraine, Parliament Member Dmytro Gurin said the Russian are trying to starve Mariupol to strengthen their positions in cease-fire talks.
“Russians don’t open humanitarian corridors, they don’t let humanitarian convoys enter the city, and we clearly see now that the goal of the Russians is to start to (create) hunger (in the city) to enforce their position in the diplomatic process,” Gurin said. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accused Russia of committing war crimes for the “indiscriminate” killings in Mariupol.
Facebook, Instagram banned from doing business in Russia
Facebook and Instagram, which were already blocked in Russia along with foreign media websites, have been banned from the country, preventing parent company Meta from opening offices and doing business there.
The Tverskoy District Court in Moscow fulfilled a request from prosecutors to outlaw Meta Platforms Inc. and banned Facebook and Instagram for what they called “extremist activities.” The prosecutors have accused the social media platforms of ignoring government requests to remove what they described as fake news about the Russian war in Ukraine and calls for protests in Russia.
The popular messaging service WhatsApp, also owned by Meta, has not been banned.
10 million Ukrainians displaced from homes
Mariupol is not the only city to have felt Russia’s wrath, and about a quarter of Ukraine’s population has been displaced because of the violence, according to the United Nations. Ukraine’s population has already been declining for years, dropping from over 50 million in the 1990s to 43 million in 2022.
Now, more than 10 million more Ukrainians – or roughly 25% – have either been displaced inside their country or have fled as refugees to other nations as Russian forces continue their besiegement of residential communities.
Britain: Russian impostor made calls to top UK officials
Britain is accusing Russia of using an impostor to pose as the prime minister of Ukraine and calling two government ministers. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said they were called, and Wallace said he briefly spoke with the impostor. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said the government is concerned Russia will use doctored versions of the calls for it disinformation campaign.
“He posed several misleading questions and after becoming suspicious I terminated the call,” Wallace said. “No amount of Russian disinformation, distortion and dirty tricks can distract from Russia’s human rights abuses and illegal invasion of Ukraine. A desperate attempt.”
Patel called the effort a “pathetic attempt at such difficult times to divide us.”
Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher team up for $35M fundraiser
Actor Mila Kunis and husband Ashton Kutcher have raised $35 million in humanitarian relief for the people of Ukraine through their fundraiser on GoFundMe. Kunis, who was born in Ukraine, and Kutcher exceeded their initial fundraising goal of $30 million thanks to the donations of more than 70,000 people.
“We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the support, and while this is far from a solve of the problem, our collective effort will provide a softer landing for so many people as they forge ahead into their future of uncertainty,” Kunis said in a video.
Freight forwarder Flexport and nonprofit Airbnb.org will facilitate aid efforts by “transporting humanitarian aid to known NGOs on the ground” and “providing free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine,” Kunis and Kutcher said.
Kunis, 38, was born in Chernivtsi, a southwestern Ukraine city of about 250,000 people, in 1983. Her family emigrated to the United States in 1991.
– Rasha Ali
China’s Red Cross providing aid to Ukraine
The Chinese Red Cross will provide Ukraine with another $1.57 million in humanitarian aid, Chinese officials said Monday. The agency has provided Ukraine with at least three batches of humanitarian supplies, including milk powder and quilts for children, in recent weeks, said Zhang Jun, China’s representative to the U.N.
The U.S. has urged China to join the West in sanctions against Russia aimed at pressuring President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine. China has refused to condemn Russia or refer to its offensive as an invasion. Chinese officials say NATO expansion pressured Russia into striking Ukraine last month.
8 die in shelling of Kyiv shopping center
Russian shelling destroyed a shopping center near the city center of Kyiv, killing eight people and injuring at least one, according to emergency officials. The force of the blasts shattered every window in a neighboring high-rise in the densely populated Podil district.
Despite a ”continued lack of progress” to take the capital, Kyiv remains Russia’s primary military
objective, according to British military officials. Heavy fighting continues north of the city in north-central Ukraine, but “the bulk” of Russian forces remain more than 15 miles from the center of Kyiv, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update.
“Russian forces advancing on the city from the north-east have stalled,” the update reads. “Forces advancing from the direction of Hostomel to the north-west have been repulsed by fierce Ukrainian resistance.”
The ministry says Russia will likely prioritize attempts to encircle the city in the coming weeks.
– Bailey Schulz
President Biden to travel to Poland on Friday but won’t visit Ukraine
President Joe Biden will travel to Poland this week after Thursday meetings with NATO, G7 and EU leaders in Brussels. On Friday, Biden will travel to Warsaw, where he will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda to discuss how the U.S. and its allies are “responding to the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created,” a White House statement read.
Over 2 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring Poland as refugees, according to the United Nations.
Biden’s trip to Europe will not include a stop in Ukraine, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted Sunday.
– Celina Tebor
Israel balancing ‘complex considerations’ with Ukraine, Russia
After Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded for help and a stronger stance against Russia’s attack from Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the country is managing its involvement with Ukraine and Russia “in a sensitive, generous and responsible way while balancing various and complex considerations.”
Israel has condemned Russia’s invasion but has refrained from taking action that would anger Moscow out of concern of jeopardizing its military coordination in neighboring Syria, according to the Associated Press.
In a video address to the Israeli parliament Sunday, Zelenskyy urged the lawmakers to take action against Russia and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to carry out a “final solution” against Ukraine. The term was used by Nazi Germany for its genocide of some 6 million Jews during World War II.
“Our people are now wandering in the world, seeking security as you once did,” said Zelenskyy, who is Jewish.
– Bailey Schulz
New Zealand offers non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine
New Zealand plans to provide $5 million New Zealand dollars ($3.5 million) in non-lethal military assistance to support Ukraine. Funds will primarily go toward the NATO Trust Fund, which provides fuel, military rations, first aid kits and more to Ukraine.
“This is the first time New Zealand has provided direct funding to a third party organization for non-lethal military assistance of this kind,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement. “By contributing directly to the NATO Trust Fund, Ukrainian forces on the ground can benefit from the additional assistance immediately.”
New Zealand will also make a variety of surplus defense equipment available to share with Ukraine, including body armor, helmets and vests.
– Bailey Schulz
Deputy national security adviser: US can broaden sanctions against Russia
Deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh said Sunday the U.S. has the ability to broaden its sanctions against Russia.
“(We can) take the measures, take the sanctions we’ve already applied, apply them in more targets. Apply them to more sectors,” Singh told CBS’ 60 Minutes. “More banks, more sectors that we haven’t touched.”
“It’s mostly about oil and gas, but there are other sectors, too,” he said. “I don’t want to specify them, but I think (Russian President Vladimir) Putin would know what those are.”
When asked what Putin would need to do to have sanctions lifted, Singh said “we’re nowhere near that point.”
“The first thing (Putin) has to do is to stop a reckless and barbaric attack on the civilians of Ukraine,” he said. “That’s not happening.”
– Bailey Schulz
What is a war of attrition?
Following weeks of Russian forces besieging residential cities and the Ukrainian military attempting to sever supply lines, Western governments and analysts say Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is starting to become a war of attrition. But what does that mean?
Attrition warfare refers to wearing down an opponent to the point of exhaustion. One of the most well-known examples of a war of attrition was World War I, which consisted of lengthy and prolonged battles, largely fought in trenches.
Britain’s defense intelligence chief said last week Russia was shifting to a ”strategy of attrition” after unexpected pushback from Ukrainian forces and failure to capture its largest cities. Chief of Defense Intelligence Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull said Russian forces’ new strategy “will involve the reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower. This will result in increased civilian casualties, destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure and intensify the humanitarian crisis.”
Mariupol’s city council accused the Russian military of bombing an art school Sunday where about 400 people had taken shelter. Days earlier, Russian forces bombed a theater in the strategic port city where civilians took shelter.
– Celina Tebor
More coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Contributing: Associated Press