For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.
The latest developments of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, all times EDT:
11:15 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at pro-Western Russians in a televised address, calling them "scum" and "traitors," CNN reports.
10:37 p.m.: The BBC reports that the mayor of Melitopol, Ukraine, has been released after being held by the Russians for five days. Mayor Ivan Fedorov was released in exchange for nine Russian prisoners.
9:28 p.m.: Facebook on Wednesday removed official Russian posts that falsely claimed reports of Russia bombing a children's hospital in Ukraine were a hoax, a company spokesperson said, even as similar messages appeared on other social media platforms, Reuters reported.
8:12 p.m.: In besieged southern Ukraine, Russia on Wednesday destroyed a theater in Mariupol, where hundreds of civilians had taken shelter, Ukrainian authorities said. The number of casualties is unknown. Up to 1,200 people may have been inside the theater, said the city's Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov, as the Maxar satellite imagery firm said images from March 14 showed the word “children” had been written in large white letters in Russian in front of and behind the building.
7:02 p.m.: The U.N. Security Council is due to vote on Friday on a Russian-drafted call for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine, but diplomats say the measure is set to fail because it does not push for an end to the fighting or withdrawal of Russian troops. Russia put forward the text after France and Mexico withdrew their own push for a UNSC resolution on Ukraine's humanitarian situation because they said it would have been vetoed by Moscow, Reuters reported. They instead plan to put it to a vote in the 193-member General Assembly, where no country wields a veto.
6:48 p.m.: The latest intel assessment by the British military of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:
6:12 p.m.: VOA's United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer shares that Western U.N. Security Council members are calling for an emergency Meeting Thursday at 3 p.m. EDT per a tweet by @UKUN_NewYork.
5:01 p.m.: Some military strategists say Russian forces are struggling to hold territory they have seized and have suffered some serious reversals in fierce skirmishes elsewhere, Jamie Dettmer reports from Warsaw.
4:53 p.m.: VOA’s Jeff Seldin tweets that Meta has removed a deepfake video that claimed to show Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “issuing a statement he never did.”
4 p.m.: VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports the latest from a senior U.S. defense official on Russia-Ukraine:
- The Russian shelling of the Odesa suburbs from the Black Sea could be in preparation of a possible ground assault.
- Russian is discussing bringing in reinforcements from elsewhere in Russia.
- The U.S. assessment is that Russia is using 75% of all of its battalion tactical groups (700-900 troops, with motorized infantry, tanks, mortars and engineers and recon capabilities) in Ukraine right now.
- There are no signs of any Russian-recruited foreign fighters/mercenaries in Ukraine yet.
- Russian advances on Kyiv and other main cities still stalled, though Russian rear forces have been moving closer to the front lines.
3:45 p.m.: VOA’s Eastern Europe Chief Myroslava Gongadze interviewed Stephen Allen, the USAID Ukraine Crisis Disaster Assistance Response Team leader, in Poland on Wednesday about operations in the region.
WATCH: USAID Talks About Disaster Aid in Ukraine
3:05 p.m.: VOA's national correspondent Steve Herman tweets that, in response to a reporter's question, U.S. President Joe Biden calls Russian President Vladimir Putin "a war criminal." The comment drew a response from Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said Biden's characterization was "unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric."
2:58 p.m.: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the ruling Wednesday by the International Court of Justice, which requires Russia to immediately suspend its offensive in Ukraine.
2:47 p.m.: Russia is no longer part of the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights monitor organization, following its invasion of Ukraine. On Tuesday, Russia announced it would leave, and on Wednesday the 47-nation COE made it official, VOA News reported
2:20 p.m. : Russia kept up its offensive across Ukraine Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. Shrapnel from an artillery shell smashed into a 12-story apartment building in the capital Kyiv, wiping out the top floor and sparking a fire, Fighting continued to rage in Kyiv’s suburbs, as Russian troops sought to sever the capital from transport routes and supply lines. A Russian airstrike slammed into Markhalivka, southwest of Kyiv, and destroyed residential apartments. Russia now occupies Ivankiv, and controls the surrounding region on the border with Belarus. Also Wednesday, relentless strikes pounded the northeastern city of Kharkiv, explosions rocked the region around the Black Sea port of Kherson, as well as near a train station in the southeastern hub of Zaporizhzhia. And Ukraine’s foreign minister tweeted that a drama theater in the besieged southern port town of Mariupol, which was sheltering civilians, was destroyed.
2:15 p.m.: In Photos: Russia's Invasion of Ukraine, March 16, 2022
2:10 p.m.: Russia's defense ministry denied a report published by the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on Wednesday that its forces had shot and killed 10 people waiting in line for bread in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, and said there were no Russian troops in the area, according to Reuters. The embassy did not say what evidence it had for the attack in a statement posted on its official Twitter site and its Facebook page. Ukraine's general prosecutor's office said it had opened an investigation into the alleged incident.
2:01 p.m. : Some of the three million Ukrainian refugees who have managed to escape the war are now moving beyond Poland and Eastern Europe to the farthest stretches of the continent. That includes Spain which is already home to a community of 100,000 Ukrainians. VOA’s Alfonso Beato in the Catalonia region has this story, narrated by Jon Spier.
1:52 p.m. : Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill spoke on the phone Wednesday about Ukraine and the need for a “just peace,” the Russian church said. This is the first known communication between the two leaders since the Kremlin’s invasion, The Associated Press reported.
The call was all the more remarkable because Francis and Kirill have only met once – at the Havana airport in 2016 – in what was then the first encounter between a pope and Russian patriarch in over 1,000 years.
Wednesday’s call came just hours after Francis evoked the specter of a “final catastrophe” of an atomic war that would extinguish humanity during his weekly general audience. While Francis didn’t reference Ukraine explicitly in that part of his speech, he did elsewhere call for prayers for Ukraine and for God to protect its children and forgive those who make war.
Francis’ long-term goal to improve relations with Kirill and avoid antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church had explained his initially tepid response to the February 24 Russian invasion. He has since stepped up his denunciations, demanding “an end to the war."
1:30 p.m. : The White House on Wednesday released a fact sheet detailing U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, including what will be done with the additional $800 million worth of assistance announced today.
1:20 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden spoke at the White House Wednesday, unveiling $800 million in new aid to Ukraine. This brings the total U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine to $1 billion in just the past week, and a total of $2 billion since the start of the Biden Administration, according to an official statement. "America is leading this effort, together with our allies and partners, providing an enormous level of security and humanitarian assistance that we're adding to today and we're going to continue to do more in the days and weeks ahead," Biden said. VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara monitored his speech.
1:00 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden delivered remarks on the assistance the United States is providing to Ukraine. Watch his speech here.
12:37 p.m. : NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg briefed the media following an extraordinary meeting of alliance defense ministers in Brussels Wednesday, to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said NATO defense ministers “agreed that we must continue to provide significant support to Ukraine, including with military supplies, financial help and humanitarian aid.” He added that Russia’s president “must stop this war immediately” and “withdraw his forces now and engage in diplomacy in good faith.” VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin tweeted the highlights.
12:10 p.m. : A few weeks ago, Nargiz Gurbanova was working as a criminal defense lawyer, but now she spends her days sheltering in a hospital basement as the Russian military bombards her city, Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, she says she is now gathering evidence of war crimes.
11:51 a.m. : Ukraine’s president welcomed a ruling by the International Court of Justice Wednesday. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the ruling compels Russia to halt its military offensive in Ukraine.
11:49 a.m.: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Russia on Wednesday to stop the military actions it started in Ukraine on Feb. 24. "The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on Feb 24, 2022 in the territory of Ukraine," the judges said. The judges added Russia must also ensure that other forces under its control or supported by Moscow should not continue the military operation. The ICJ also asked both Ukraine and Russia to “refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.”
11:39 a.m. : Taiwanese citizens and their government are sending donations to war-torn Ukraine as a show of extra sympathy, analysts say. They argue that many on the Asian Pacific island fear they could become the next place to be targeted by a major military power.
11:15 a.m.: Both Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress gave Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a standing ovation following an address he delivered via video link Wednesday.
VOA’s Yulia Yarmolenko interviewed Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska after the speech, who said, “ We need to be doing more. The United States Congress was called on today and the United States government were called on today to act like a superpower and we should be doing more.”
“They need more weaponry.” Sasses said. “I think we've seen that the Ukrainians have great fighters, they have great courage and they have pilots. So they're willing to engage the battle directly.”
Asked about Zelenskyy’s request for a no-fly zone, Sasse said “NATO with 30 countries and complicated Article Five obligations has not made the decision to directly go to war with Russia at this time. And so that's why a no fly zone, I don't think is the central discussion.”
Sasse advocated giving Ukrainians “a lot more air power, we should be supplying the weaponry. And we know that the Ukrainians will supply the pilots and the fighters.” He said, “As long as they're willing to fight, we're willing to supply them. If something shoots, we should be giving it to the Ukrainians.”
10:51 a.m. Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukraine’s president who is actively involved in negotiations with his Russian counterparts to end the conflict, on Wednesday said Ukraine’s model of security guarantees would entail “a rigid agreement with a number of guarantor states undertaking clear legal obligations to Ukraine.” Later Wednesday, he also tweeted a link to an interview with the PBS News Hour, in which he said he makes Ukraine’s position at the negotiations clear.
10:18 a.m.: International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan visited Ukraine, Reuters reported Wednesday.
10:10 a.m.: U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke today with General Nikolay Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, to reiterate the United States’ firm and clear opposition to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, according to a statement released by NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne. Sullivan told General Patrushev that if Russia is serious about diplomacy, then Moscow should stop attacking Ukrainian cities and towns. He also warned General Patrushev about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, the statement added.
10:07 a.m.: While embedded with Ukrainian troops, Current Time journalists Borys Sachalko and Ivan Lyubysh-Kirdey came under fire during a Russian artillery assault in the combat zone northwest of Kyiv. Current Time is a Russian-language TV and digital network led by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in partnership with VOA.
9:30 a.m.: In a virtual address to the U.S. Congress Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked for more support to fight off the Russian invasion and proposed a new alliance of countries that would stand together against such aggression in the future, VOA News reported.
"Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided - whether our people will be free," Zelenskyy said, speaking to the lawmakers in Ukrainian. He said Ukrainians and Americans have much in common, especially a desire to live in freedom.
Zelenskyy also drew parallels between Japan's 1941 attack on the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saying that Ukraine is experiencing the same kind of assault every day. He again asked for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but added that if that was not possible, the U.S. supply more weapons to fight off the Russian attacks.
"I can say to each of you today, 'I have a need,'" he said. Zelenskyy said he and Ukraine are grateful for everything the U.S. has done, and asked that the U.S. do more, including more sanctions against Russia. "All American companies must leave the Russian market, because it is flooded with our blood," Zelenskyy said.
He also called for a new association of countries that would oppose aggression like the Russian invasion through economic sanctions and military support.
Zelenskyy’s speech follows similar addresses to Britain’s House of Commons, Canada’s Parliament and the European Parliament in recent weeks as he pushes for more military and humanitarian support from the international community.
9:03 a.m.: The American broadcasting agency FOX News says journalist Benjamin Hall is safe and out of Ukraine after the attack that killed 2 of his colleagues Monday, according to National Public Radio correspondent David Folkenflick.
8:54 a.m.: The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv sent this report on Twitter Wednesday.
8:44 a.m.: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has arrived in Saudi Arabia, according to state news agency SPA. Johnson is on a visit to the Gulf as part of efforts to secure more oil supplies and increase pressure on President Vladimir Putin over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.
8:34 a.m.: Ukraine has rejected Russian proposals that it adopt a neutral status, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that a "compromise" outcome would center on Ukraine becoming a neutral state comparable to Sweden and Austria. But Zelensky's office gave the idea short shrift. "Ukraine is now in a direct state of war with Russia. Consequently, the model can only be 'Ukrainian' and only on legally verified security guarantees," Kyiv's negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak said.
8:22 a.m.: At the Gare de l’Est train station in Paris, French Red Cross workers greet newly arrived Ukrainian refugees as they step off trains and direct them to a makeshift welcome center that offers food and other assistance. “Most of them are exhausted,” says Elodie Esteve, of the French Red Cross. “We’re here to welcome them, to tell them it’s OK, that they’re safe, and to orient them depending on what they plan to do after.” VOA’s Lisa Bryant went to the station and has this report.
8:01 a.m.: Another mayor was reported to have been abducted by Russian forces in Ukraine on Wedensday. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba said on Twitter that the mayor and deputy of the Ukrainian city of Skadovsk were kidnapped.
At least two other mayors have been seized recently by invading Russian military forces this week, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The mayor of Dniprorudne was abducted March 13, and the mayor of Melitopol was marched out of city hall by Russian soldiers March 11.
7:52 a.m.: Human rights advocates are pushing U.S. administration officials to expedite the process of reuniting refugees with relatives in the U.S. During a White House briefing Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration is discussing the available options. VOA’s Immigration Correspondent Aline Barros has the story.
7:15 a.m.: VOA’s Eastern Europe Chief Myroslava Gongadze visited a warehouse in Poland managed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). It serves as a humanitarian relief hub for many international organizations, according to Stephan Allen, the USAID Ukraine Crisis Disaster Assistance Response Team leader.
7:08 a.m.: Ukraine's Foreign Minister on Wednesday tweeted a message calling for "deputinization" -- in other words, for the world to cut all ties to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, his administration and his policies, describing them as “toxic.”
6:47 a.m.: The Kremlin said on Wednesday that a demilitarized Ukraine with its own army along the lines of Austria or Sweden was being looked at as a possible compromise, Reuters reports.
"This is a variant that is currently being discussed and which could really be seen a compromise," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA news agency. The reference to demilitarization appeared to relate to the idea of neutral status for Ukraine.
Ukraine was promised by NATO as far back as 2008 that it would one day become a member of the alliance. Russia has said it cannot allow that to happen and cited it as part of the logic for what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.
6:30 a.m.: Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has arrived in Kyiv on a five-day visit to Ukraine to urge for greater humanitarian access and protection of civilians, the organization said Wednesday.
“After enormous suffering by the civilian population and after our intensive virtual conversations with the Russian and Ukraine governments, I find it utterly important that we have person-to-person contacts, that we are able to go in-depth into the understanding of neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian work, and that our licence to operate in the country is fully understood by the authorities,” Maurer said in a statement.
“People in Ukraine are crying out for help. Needs are massive, conditions volatile. We are sparing no effort to answer their call,” Maurer later said in a Twitter post.
5:20 a.m.: NATO defense ministers gathered Wednesday to discuss what Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said would be both the “immediate consequences of Russia’s invasion” and long-term efforts to strengthen NATO’s collective defense.
“NATO has a responsibility to ensure that this crisis does not escalate beyond Ukraine, and that's also the reason why we have increased the presence in the eastern part of the alliance,” Stoltenberg told reporters. He has said potential actions could include placing “substantially more forces” in the eastern part of the alliance, along with increases in naval and air deployments, missile defense systems and holding larger and more frequent military exercises.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin highlighted support for Ukraine’s ability to defend itself as well as U.S. commitment to aid any NATO ally that comes under attack.
“I think our presence here sends a signal to the world that we remain united in our support of Ukraine, and we condemn Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion into Ukraine,” Austin said.
Russia has objected to NATO’s presence near its borders and sought a guarantee that Ukraine will never join the alliance. NATO insists countries are free to make their own decisions about security ties.
While Ukraine is not part of NATO, seven NATO countries share borders with Russia, Ukraine or Russian ally Belarus, and that proximity has raised concerns of a wider conflict.
Stoltenberg said there are 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe and another 40,000 troops under direct NATO command, as well as hundreds of thousands more on heightened alert across NATO nations.
4:30 a.m.: The Netherlands and other NATO countries will continue to deliver weapons to Ukraine even as these deliveries could become the target of Russian attacks, Dutch defense minister Kajsa Ollongren said on Wednesday.
“Ukraine has the right to defend itself, we will continue to support it,” Ollongren said at her arrival for a meeting with NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Reuters reported.
4:00 a.m.: VOA’s Yan Boechat documents life in Irpin and Kyiv as Russia’s military assault continues.
3:30 a.m.: Russia said on Tuesday it has written guarantees it can carry out its work as a party to the Iran nuclear deal, suggesting Moscow could allow a revival of the tattered 2015 pact to go forward.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comments appeared to signal Moscow may have backed off its previous view that Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine were an impediment to salvaging the nuclear deal, Reuters reports.
3:00 a.m.: The British Ministry of Defence said Wednesday that Russian troops are struggling to overcome challenges posed by Ukraine’s terrain. Russia’s advance has been confined to Ukraine’s roads and highways, the daily battleground intelligence report added.
The destruction of bridges by Ukranian forces has “played a key role in stalling Russia’s advance,” the report said.
“The tactics of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have adeptly exploited Russia’s lack of manoeuvre, frustrating the Russian advance and inflicting heavy losses on the invading forces.”
2:30 a.m.: Millions of Ukrainians have now fled their country, mostly to Poland, but also to Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova. In Hungary, there are reports of some Ukrainians deciding to turn back. Jon Spier narrates this report from Gabor Ancsin on Hungary’s border with Ukraine.
1:30 a.m.: As civilians in Ukraine bear the brunt of Russian artillery attacks, the White House announced that President Joe Biden will head to Brussels next week to coordinate deterrence and defense efforts with NATO allies. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.
1:00 a.m.: In his latest Facebook address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered a more optimistic assessment of peace talks with Russia. He said the negotiations are starting to “sound more realistic, but time is still needed.”
The talks are scheduled to continue today. Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak also said there is “room for compromise” while cautioning that “fundamental contradictions” continue to emerge during the talks.
Russia has repeatedly insisted that Ukraine concede the provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. It has also insisted that Ukraine renounce any intention of joining NATO, something Zelenskyy has appeared willing to do.
12:40 a.m.: A funeral ceremony was held in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Tuesday for four Ukrainian soldiers who lost their lives following the Russian invasion.
12:00 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his condolences Tuesday to the journalists killed in Ukraine on Monday.
“I am grateful to all those risking their lives to show the world what is happening in Ukraine. The United States condemns Russia's ongoing violence, which is putting the safety of journalists and other media workers in Ukraine at risk.”
Journalists Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra Kuvshynova were killed in an attack that also seriously injured Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall.
U.S. broadcaster Fox News on Tuesday announced that cameraman Zakrzewski had died in Ukraine. Kuvshynova, a 24-year-old Ukrainian journalist, also was killed in the same attack.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty contributed to this report. Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.