Russia-Ukraine updates: Russian forces ‘struggling’ with terrain: UK military

(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.”

Russian forces moving from neighboring Belarus toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, have advanced closer to the city center in recent days despite the resistance. Heavy shelling and missile attacks, many on civilian buildings, continue in Kyiv, as well as major cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol. Russia also bombed western cities for the first time this week, targeting Lviv and a military base near the Poland border.

Russia has been met by sanctions from the United States, Canada and countries throughout Europe, targeting the Russian economy as well as Putin himself.

For previous coverage please click here.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Mar 16, 8:51 pm
Zelenskyy discusses ongoing negotiations, proposal for new alliance of countries

In his latest national address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said negotiations with Russia are “ongoing.”

“My priorities in the negotiations are absolutely clear: the end of the war, security guarantees, sovereignty, restoration of territorial integrity, real guarantees for our country, real protection for our country,” he said in a speech that aired tonight.

Zelenskyy said he addressed both the U.S. and all the relevant states in regard to creating a new union he called U-24. He said that the new alliance will ensure that aggressors receive a coordinated response from the world.

“We can no longer trust the existing institutions. We cannot expect bureaucrats in international organizations to change so quickly,” he said. “Therefore, we must look for new guarantees. Create new tools. Take those who have courage and do what justice requires.”

Mar 16, 8:17 pm
UN Security Council to hold emergency meeting Thursday

The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to address the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

The U.S., Albania, U.K., France, Ireland and Norway requested the meeting, according to the Norway U.N. The countries have asked for briefings by the U.N.’s Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the U.N.’s refugee agency and the World Health Organization.

More thank 3 million refugees have alreay fled Ukraine since the invasion began on Feb. 24, according to the U.N.’s refugee agency.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

Mar 16, 6:37 pm
Theater sheltering civilians hit by Russian airstrikes, Ukrainian official says

A Ukrainian official claimed Wednesday that Russian airstrikes destroyed a theater in the besieged city of Mariupol where civilians were taking shelter.

The number of victims from the bombing of the Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama “is impossible to count,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk Region administration, said in a Facebook post.

“Russia is killing civilians!” he said, adding that it is also “impossible to determine” the number of victims in Mariupol since the start of the invasion.

The city has been burying its dead in a mass grave on the outskirts of Mariupol as it endures heavy shelling.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Mar 16, 5:26 pm
Ukraine says it’s trying to launch counter-attacks on edge of Kyiv

Ukraine’s military said it is trying to launch counter-attacks in northern areas on the edge of Kyiv, seeking to push Russian forces back from the towns at the gates of the capital where they’ve been bogged down for two weeks.

The sounds of intense shelling and fighting could be heard from the north of Kyiv the last three days. Battles have been raging in the towns of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, just a few miles from the city limits and from where thousands of civilians have been fleeing.

“The situation remains difficult, especially in the south and east [of Ukraine]. But more and more often our defenders are moving into counterattacks in various parts of the front: from Kyiv and Mykolaiv regions to the Luhansk region,” Ukrainian officials said in a statement Wednesday, referring to regions in southern and eastern Ukraine.

Authorities have imposed a full curfew from Tuesday evening to Thursday morning, locking down the capital and forbidding people from going outside. Plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the direction of the northern areas and the popping sound of small arms fire heard occasionally throughout the day Wednesday.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Mar 16, 3:17 pm
Biden calls Putin a ‘war criminal’ for 1st time

“I think he is a war criminal,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The president initially told the reporter “no” when asked if he was ready to label Putin a war criminal, but moments later Biden circled back, asking her to repeat the question.

This marked the first time Biden has called Putin a war criminal since the invasion began. The White House had previously said there was an official review underway before the administration could formally accuse Putin of war crimes.

-ABC News’ Mary Bruce

Mar 16, 2:56 pm
Kidnapped Melitopol mayor freed from Russian captivity

Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol, has been freed after being kidnapped by Russian troops, according to Ukrainian officials.

Fedorov was freed in a “special operation,” Kirill Timoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said. He didn’t give additional information.

His kidnapping was reported on March 11.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a video of him talking to Fedorov on the phone. The president told the mayor he was very glad to speak with him and said, “We don’t leave ours behind.”

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Mar 16, 2:26 pm
UNICEF highlights dangers Ukrainian children face as refugees

More than half of the 3 million people who have fled Ukraine are children, according to UNICEF.

“We realized that it’s about 75,000 a day… that’s about 55 Ukrainian children becoming refugees every minute. Essentially, one every second since this war started,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told ABC News Live.

Many children are suffering from a lack of food and freezing temperatures, he said.

“Many of them haven’t had clean water in two days,” he said.

Elder also highlighted the psychological trauma.

“They’ve been under bombardment. Many of them have seen family members or community members killed,” he said.

Elder added that UNICEF is “desperately concerned” about human trafficking, warning that any large number of children coming into a new country are at a higher risk of being abducted.

-ABC News’ Shannon Caturano

Mar 16, 1:17 pm
Biden announces additional military help for Ukraine

President Joe Biden announced more aid to Ukraine Wednesday, saying that the “American people are answering [Ukranian] President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy’s call for more help, more weapons for Ukraine to defend itself, more tools to fight Russian aggression.”

Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance as part of the $13.6 billion aid package for Ukraine contained in the government spending bill Biden signed into law Tuesday, which includes weapons the Ukrainians have been requesting, such as anti-armor and anti-air systems.

“This could be a long and difficult battle,” Biden said. “But the American people will be steadfast in our support of the people of Ukraine in the face of [Russian President [Vladimir] Putin’s immoral, unethical attacks on civilian populations. We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught, and we are going to continue to have their backs as they fight for freedom, their democracy, their very survival.”

Biden did not directly address Zelenskyy’s emotional and direct appeal to lawmakers on Wednesday for the U.S. to back a no-fly zone the administration has repeatedly rejected.

-ABC News’ Libby Cathey

Mar 16, 12:38 pm
UN’s top court orders Russia to halt invasion

By a vote of 13-2, the United Nations’ highest court, the International Court of Justice, made a preliminary ruling that Russia “shall immediately suspend military operations.”

The two votes against were from Russia and China.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacted on Twitter, writing that “Russia must comply immediately.” But the ruling is mostly symbolic as the ICJ has no direct means to enforce it.

-ABC News’ Cindy Smith

Mar 16, 11:09 am
House and Senate leadership to receive classified briefings

House and Senate leadership, along with ranking members of relevant committees, will receive a classified briefing on the war in Ukraine following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s personal and emotional plea to Congress for more help.

The House briefing will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday and the Senate will follow at 3:30 p.m.

-ABC News’ Rachel Scott, Mariam Khan

Mar 16, 10:49 am
Jake Sullivan warns of consequences if Russia uses chemical or biological weapons

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Russian counterpart, Nikolay Patrushev, on Wednesday “to reiterate the United States’ firm and clear opposition to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.

She said Sullivan told Patrushev that Russia should stop attacking Ukraine if it’s serious about diplomacy and warned “about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.”

Horne said Sullivan “clearly laid out” that the U.S. will continue “imposing costs on Russia” as well as support Ukraine and defend NATO’s eastern flank.

This conversation marked the first high-level engagement between the U.S. and Russia since the Kremlin launched its war against Ukraine.

-ABC News’ Justin Ryan Gomez and Conor Finnegan

Mar 16, 10:43 am
Putin justifies invasion, says troops ‘doing everything possible’ to avoid harming civilians

In a speech Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin falsely claimed that Russia’s military tactics have been “completely justified” and that Russian troops are “doing everything possible” to avoid harming Ukrainian civilians.

Putin sought to justify Russia’s invasion, claiming that all “diplomatic possibilities were exhausted” and Russia had “no choice” but to launch its operation. He claimed that the “appearance of Russian troops near Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities” is not connected “with a goal of occupying that country” and that it is about defusing a supposed threat to Russia.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Mar 16, 9:38 am
Zelenskyy asks Congress to back no-fly zone over Ukraine

In a virtual address to members of Congress Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked the U.S. to back a no-fly zone over the war-torn country.

If a no-fly zone is not possible, Zelenskyy asked for aircraft “to help Ukraine.”

“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands” — a “terror” Europe hasn’t seen in 80 years, Zelenskyy said.

In an emotional appeal, Zelenskyy asked members of Congress to put themselves in the shoes of Ukrainians by remembering Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude for U.S. involvement, but called on Congress to do more.

“New packages of sanctions are needed constantly … we propose that the United States sanction all politicians in the Russian Federation who remain in their offices and do not cut ties with those who are responsible for the aggression against Ukraine,” he said.

“Members of Congress, please take the lead. If you have companies in your districts who finance the Russian military machine… you should put pressure,” he said.

“The destiny of our country is being decided,” he said. “Russia has attacked not just us… it went on a brutal offensive against our values, basic human values.”

Zelenskyy received a standing ovation before and after his remarks.

But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that a no-fly zone “is escalatory and could prompt a war with Russia.”

“Providing the planes, our military did an assessment that’s based not just on the risk but whether it would have a huge benefit to them,” Psaki said. “They assessed it would not because they have their own squadron of planes and because the type of military assistance that is working to fight this war effectively is the type of assistance we’re already providing.”

Mar 16, 9:10 am
Fox News correspondent injured in Ukraine is safe, out of the country

Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall, who was reporting in Ukraine when he was injured by incoming fire that killed two colleagues, is now safe and out of the country, according to the network.

Hall “is alert and said to be in good spirits,” Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer reported Wednesday.

Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, 55, was newsgathering with Hall on Monday in Horenka, outside of Kyiv, when their vehicle was hit by incoming fire, the network said. Zakrzewski was killed while Hall was injured and hospitalized in unknown condition.

Ukrainian producer and fixer, 24-year-old Oleksandra Kuvshynova, who was working for Fox News during the war, was also killed in the shelling, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Mar 16, 6:44 am
Russia claims Ukraine willing to give up NATO hopes

Russia’s lead negotiator in peace talks with Ukraine said on Wednesday Ukraine had proposed adopting a “neutral status,” along the lines of Austria or Sweden, that is a country that is not part of NATO but has its own military and close ties to the West, including European Union membership.

There has been no official confirmation from Ukraine, though President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly said in recent days that Ukraine understands it will not be allowed to join NATO.

“The preservation and development of the neutral status of Ukraine, its demilitarization Ukraine — a whole complex of questions connected with the size of the Ukrainian army,” Russia’s negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, was quoted as saying by Russian media. “Ukraine proposes the Austrian, Swedish option of a neutral demilitarised state, but within that a state possessing its own army and navy. All these questions are being discussed at the level of the leaderships of the ministry of defense of Russia and Ukraine.”

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, claimed on Wednesday that the negotiators in the fourth round of talks were discussing “concrete formulations” that are “close to agreement.”

An agreement that Ukraine wouldn’t seek to join NATO raises questions. Ukraine’s constitution includes a pledge to join the alliance that would likely need to be changed, which would be highly controversial.

If the Sweden-style status is acceptable to Russia that would also mean the Kremlin has significantly lowered its war aims. Ukraine was not close to joining NATO before the conflict and a commitment not to would be little more than affirming the status quo before Russia’s invasion.

“The goal pursued by Russia at these negotiations is exactly the same as the goal set by Russia at the very beginning of the special military operation,” Medinsky said. “We need a peaceful, free and independent Ukraine, a neutral one, not a member of some military blocs or a member of NATO, but a country that would be our friend and neighbor, so that we could jointly develop relations and build our future and that would not serve as a bridgehead for a military and economic attack on our country. So, our goal is unchanged.”

This is why “practically every digit or letter in the agreements” is being thoroughly discussed with the Ukrainian side, Medinsky said.

“We want this agreement to last for generations, so that our children live in peace, the foundation of which is laid by this negotiating process,” he said.

Russia is also pursuing other demands in the talks, including the recognition of Crimea as part of Russia and the Russian-controlled separatist regions as independent. They also want changes in laws giving more guarantees for Russian-speakers in Ukraine.

Mar 16, 6:34 am
Russian forces ‘struggling’ with terrain: UK military

Russia’s military forces are “struggling to overcome” Ukraine’s terrain as they attempt to push further into the country, the U.K. Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday.

“Russian forces have remained largely tied to Ukraine’s road network and have demonstrated a reluctance to conduct off-road manoeuvre,” the Ministry said in an update. “The destruction of bridges by Ukrainian forces has also played a key role in stalling Russia’s advance.”

Ukraine’s military has “adeptly exploited” Russia’s difficulty moving through the country, “frustrating the Russian advance and inflicting heavy losses on the invading forces,” the update said.

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